So you lost your home opener. No big deal, it’s just one game. Sure, you spent the whole day getting pumped up for it. There was a plaza party, a player walkup, fan giveaways, a ceremony featuring at least one questionable banner, and a general buzz of excitement. And sure, the game itself had the distinct feeling of a balloon’s air being released. Otherwise, though, a great night!

What went wrong? Well, unfortunately, there isn’t enough time in the day to walk through all the mistakes that were made on and off the ice last night. Personally, I’ll settle on talking nerdy to you. Without further ado, I present the Game Three Nerdcap.

Shaky Beginnings

If memory serves, the opening puck drop and ensuing rush towards Mike Smith put me briefly at ease. Before the game started, I shared some of my concerns on Twitter with how this game might turn out. Fortunately, right off the bat, the Predators looked to be leaving my hesitations in the dust. Unfortunately, the opening faceoff was about as good as it got for Nashville in the first period.

Calgary simply dominated the period. A semi-breakaway forced Subban to take a desperate penalty very early on, and Nashville never really gained back any momentum. Viktor Arvidsson received a puck to the nose via Roman Josi, and had to leave the game for the remainder of the period. As such, the first and second lines were disrupted very early on.

Using time on ice (TOI), Corsi for percentage (CF%), high-danger chances for percentage (HDCF%), and offensive zone start percentage (oZS%), here’s some line stats for you:

Line

TOI CF% HDCF% oZS%

Forsberg – Johansen – Arvidsson

5:13 69.23 75.00 71.43

Forsberg – Johansen – Fiala

3:19 75.00 100.00 75.00
Fiala – Turris – Smith 9:21 66.67 100.00

50.00

Jarnkrok – Bonino – Hartman 8:09 100.00

50.00

Gaudreau- Sissons – Rinaldo 4:34 50.00

0.00

 

Defensively speaking, here’s how the pairings shaped up:

Pairing

TOI CF% HDCF% oZS%

Ekholm – Subban

15:43 63.64 50.00 63.64
Josi – Ellis 16.38 55.17 62.50

57.14

Bitetto – Weber 10:18 57.89 50.00

57.14

 

ships n trips

“Hang on a second,” you should be saying. Didn’t this team get crushed 3-0? Why are all these numbers sort of, well, excellent? The Johansen lines took their very friendly zone deployment and dominated possession. The Turris line was less sheltered than usual and still controlled the game. Even the Bonino and Sissons lines, where these numbers usually tank, were average at worst. If all you saw from last night was this table, you’d assume that the score was reversed.

Defensively, there was no bad pairing. Even the third pairing, a perpetual headache for Nashville, performed admirably.

Make no mistake, though, the Predators looked bad last night. So what gives?

Play smarter, not harder

capitol-ins-2

To use a slight cliché, the Predators appeared to be fighting the puck all night. Or, if you prefer, they “gripped their sticks too tightly.” It’s not particularly surprising after what seemed like hours of introduction before puck drop. Even the fans seemed kind of burnt out after the pomp and circumstance had finally ended.

Just from watching the game, you could see that the Predators were not comfortable on the ice. The puck seemed to be endlessly bouncing over stick blades or passed just out of reach. The Flames, meanwhile, skated lackadaisically around and waited for their opportune moments. Take a look at where their goals came from:

All three of their goals were from the high-danger area or very close to it. The Predators did very well to focus their attempts on the same region. Unlike Pekka Rinne, though, Mike Smith was up to the task.

Special teams need special attention

Over the course of an 82-game season, a result like yesterday is not exactly disastrous. Admittedly, the Predators’ minds appeared to be off in space, but they did all the right things statistically. My only lingering concern is that still-terrible power play.

In the second period, the Predators were gifted a full two minutes of a 5-on-3 advantage. “Surely,” I thought, in my naiveté, “they’ll have worked on the power play this year.”

Oh, how wrong I was. Nashville’s standard power play is tragic. With a two-man advantage? It approaches unwatchable. In a word, it’s slow. In a few words, add some expletives. As far as I can tell, the passes they’re making are the right ones. They try to draw defenders towards the puck carriers before sliding it across the zone for a quick shot. In practice, though, it’s agonizingly predictable. To use football terminology, every pass and shot is completely telegraphed.

At the beginning of the offseason, Peter Laviolette actually assured us that one advantage to keeping the roster intact is that they could work on special teams all summer. For the sake of the coaching staff, I hope they forgot to work on it.

Looking ahead

The good news is, the Predators did appear to improve as the game went on. Hopefully, the forgettable night bothered them enough to make some adjustments before tomorrow. If the performance was a mental issue, they’d better fix it fast. The Winnipeg Jets are back in town and they’d love nothing more than to remind the Predators how last year ended.

EandR

FordIce2014