Not many would have predicted the Nashville Predators would be two points behind the St. Louis Blues for second place in the Central Division standings 23 games into the 2021 season.
After all, this year was supposed to be Nashville’s “transition year.”
However, thanks to the offensive resurrection of Matt Duchene, who’s 13 goals are tied for eighth in the NHL, a breakout quarter-season from Mikael Granlund, who is tied for ninth in the league in scoring with 25 points, and the No. 7-ranked power play league-wide, the Predators have seemingly surpassed most, if not all expectations so far.
But Nashville’s recent 3-5 stretch has shown that as much as the team has overachieved so far, the 2021 Predators are still a work in progress.
Coming off a 6-0 dismantling of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday, the Predators fell flat on Thursday in a 2-0 loss to the Boston Bruins at Bridgestone Arena. That’s been how the story seems to go for Nashville lately: Look impressive in victory and follow it up with a substandard encore the following game.
“The thing is having consistency in your game,” Predators coach John Hynes said Thursday. “We had a lot of our identity, the way we want to play, tonight, but we didn’t find a way to win the game. That’s the challenge.
“I don’t think frustration is the right word. But that’s the challenge of the league — (we) have to come back now and be ready against Montreal (on Saturday) and bring the same intensity and the style of game we want to play. We’ve got to find a way to finish a little bit better than we did tonight.”
Finding that stretch of consistent performances is something that has eluded the Predators most of the year. They have seven losses following a win, and aside from a four-game win streak from Oct. 24 to Nov. 2, and a three-game win streak from Nov. 10-13, Nashville has had trouble stringing together Ws.
More than just the up-and-down results itself, the on-ice production hasn’t been steady either.
The team averages 3.6 goals per game in wins but just 1.8 goals per game in losses. Furthermore, goaltender Juuse Saros has a .948 save percentage in wins but an .888 save percentage in losses.
Nashville has a handful of players it can count on to push the offense — Granlund, Duchene, Roman Josi, Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg and Tanner Jeannot — but aside from those six, nobody else consistency finds the score sheet.
Only the Blackhawks, Capitals, Coyotes, Islanders, Rangers, and Senators have fewer double-digit scorers.
The good news is there is a lot of season left for Nashville to figure it out. The Predators have done well responding following a loss — the team is 7-3 after such games.
“Knowing the group (that we have) those guys are not happy,” Hynes continued. “…We haven’t strung wins together, I know they’ll come back and understand how we need to play and need to make some adjustments and see if we can be a little bit better…They’ve got a lot of pride, they’re highly competitive and I think you see that in the way we play, the way we respond to aversity and the way we respond after a loss.”
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_