There is plenty of blame to hand out for the Nashville Predators’ 5-7-0 start, and they will tell you as much.
On a nightly basis, head coach John Hynes and several of the players will pinpoint exactly what’s wrong with the team’s performance followed by a nonchalance solution to the problem such as “we have to play better.”
But after Nashville’s 4-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning Monday at Bridgestone Arena, the frustration in the locker room had reached a boiling point, prompting the Predators to call a players-only meeting following the game.
“I’m not going to discuss what was said,” Predators captain Roman Josi told reporters via Zoom. “Obviously, we’re not playing up to our potential right now and we need to find a way to get out of this. It’s such a short season, so yeah, we talked amongst the players and we’ve got to stick together and find a way out of this.
“If you look at the game tonight, it seems like we were on our heels the first two periods. It almost feels like we’re playing but we’re not playing to win. I think everybody is playing hard, everyone wants to win in the room, but we’re not generating anything in the first two periods and it’s hard to win games when you don’t score in the first two periods.”
The frankness of Josi’s response was a breath of fresh air after the steady stream of cookie-cutter replies that are normally offered up following a loss that include playing a full 60-minute game, being more aggressive with the puck and not chasing the game.
“Obviously, we’re not winning right now, so we’ve got to do something extra within the group of guys we have in that locker room to get ourselves back on the right foot here,” defenseman Dante Fabbro said. “That’s amongst us, but I’d say we have each other’s backs and we’re going to push through this as best we can. Nobody likes losing.”
The Predators have many issues that need addressing, it’s difficult to choose which one needs attention first. The penalty kill and power play units have been underwhelming, the defense is allowing too many scoring chances and the goaltenders are allowing too many goals. But perhaps Nashville’s biggest problem lies in the fact that the team isn’t scoring nearly enough to stay competitive in a loaded Central Division.
Outside of a pair of wins over the Columbus Blue Jackets to open the season, Nashville has struggled to score goals. The 2.42 goals per game the offense is scoring is on pace to be the fifth-worst in franchise history and the Predators are allowing the most goals per game than they ever have as a franchise before (3.33).
Of the team’s 29 goals, 17 of them have come in the third period, two in overtime and one in the shootout, meaning the Predators have only scored nine goals in the first two periods through 12 games.
“It seems like we’re just not generating anything in the first two periods,” Josi said. “We’re kind of just playing and not really generating any offense. We’ve got to find a way to generate chances. It’s too late if you don’t have that push in the third period…we’ve got to find a way to create more chances and play on the attack, not just in the third.”
The only thing consistent about the Predators thus far is their inconsistency. From their goaltending to their defense, which version of the Predators show up on a game-to-game basis is anyone’s guess. Nashville only has 44 more games -- about half of a traditional season -- left to figure things out.
“I don’t have the answer,” Hynes said. “We’ve been inconsistent and we’re certainly searching for reasons where we can be more consistent to try to show them here’s where we do it right, this is what it requires and how it needs to be done…If I had the answer to the riddle at this point, I think we’d be able to solve it, but it’s on all of us to be able to find a way to solve it and we have addressed it.”
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_