The Nashville Predators typically pride themselves on their defense.
But in Thursday’s 4-3 season-opening loss to the Seattle Kraken at Bridgestone Arena, it was the defense that did the Predators in — specifically, the power play. In fact, captain Roman Josi attributed the loss to the Predators playing too much defense.
“I feel like we didn’t get enough (offensive) zone time,” Josi said. “Especially because in the neutral zone we didn’t get it in as much as we would have liked to. I just think once we were in there (the offensive zone) we were in there for a short time…I think the first two periods we just couldn’t get the puck in enough in the O-zone and we were playing too much defense.”
The Predators have had the third-worst penalty kill in the NHL the last two seasons — 75.6 percent in 2020, 76.1 percent in 2019 — and they haven’t had a penalty kill percentage in the 80s since 2018. That season, Nashville was among the league’s best PK units (82.1 percent).
“It’s the first game of the season,” said forward Eeli Tolvanen, who scored Nashville’s first goal 3:18 into the first period. “Things happen, but I feel like we just have to play smarter. You don’t win games when you’re playing PK four or five times a game. Every power play in this league is really good, so I think that’s one thing we have to learn from this game.”
Special teams were a focal point for head coach John Hynes during training camp and the preseason. Frequently the team would practice power play and penalty kill drills during practice, and Hynes used Nashville’s six preseason games to find different looks, particularly on the penalty kill.
The Predators conceded just four power play goals on 33 chances during the preseason — a PK percentage of 87.8. So, what happened Thursday against the Kraken?
“There’s a different level of intensity when you get into the regular season and you’ve got full NHL lineups that you’re going against,” Hynes said. “There’s some learning lessons there that we can work on whether it’s decisions with the puck or playing a little bit quicker or understanding the responsibilities when the other team has the puck and starts to pressure, and you have to rely on your structure and your detail to get out of those situations.”
The Predators host the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday at 7 p.m. Carolina knocked Nashville out of the playoffs in May.
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_