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Shootouts remain a thorn in Nashville’s side

Shootouts have been a common theme in the first five games to start the 2012-13 season for the Nashville Predators. They have already been a part of three shootouts this season, which is the most of any team in the NHL. They have also lost all three shootouts they’ve been in, which obviously also leads the NHL.

Nashville shooters have converted on an abysmal 9.1 percent of shootout attempts so far this season. To put that in perspective, the Predators have scored on only one of their 11 attempts in the shootout. Here’s a breakdown of how Nashville shooters have fared through three shootouts this season:

- David Legwand (1-for-2) 50%

- Martin Erat (0-for-3) 0%

- Mike Fisher (0-for-2) 0%

- Craig Smith (0-for-2) 0%

- Ryan Ellis (0-for-1) 0%

- Colin Wilson (0-for-1) 0%

So far, Legwand has the lone shootout goal for the Predators that came against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Lacking the ability to score in the shootout isn’t something that’s new to the Predators this season, however. Nashville converted on just 20.7 percent (6-for-29) of their shootout attempts in the 2011-12 season, which was the third worst percentage in the league in front of St. Louis (19.6 percent) and Carolina (19.0 percent). The difference was that Nashville went 5-5 in shootouts last season largely because of Pekka Rinne.

Rinne stopped 70 percent (21-for-30) of his opponents in the shootout during the 2011-12 season, collecting four wins and five losses for the Predators. Anders Lindback picked up the other win for the Predators in the shootout, stopping all three shots he faced. The difference so far this season is that the Predators are hardly scoring at all in the shootout, and Rinne has stopped just five of 10 attempts.

The Predators are simply not a good team in the shootout. They got by last year because Rinne held his own and gave the Predators a chance to win by keeping the opposition off the scoreboard. Now that Rinne hasn’t been as effective in the shootout to start the season, Nashville’s weakness from their shooters is starting to stick out like a sore thumb.

Barry Trotz has to shake things up. The current lineup they’ve been going with usually involves Legwand and Erat. Legwand is usually the third shooter, but the lineup has been somewhat mixed around other than that. Fisher, Ellis, Wilson and Smith have all had at least one chance this season, but it hasn’t worked out. The bottom line is that what they’re doing isn’t working, and it needs to be changed.

Shootouts may not seem like they’re very important in the long run, but those points that are gained or not gained could be the difference in making the playoffs or not. It’s something the Predators have been struggling with so far this season, and it’s something they’re going to have to correct. If those shootout losses were wins, the Predators would be 4-1-0 right now.

One would assume that Rinne will get better in the shootout as the season moves along, but Nashville is still going to have to score goals to win the shootout. Trotz is going to have to tinker with it until he finds a group of shooters that can produce consistently. If they don’t, the Predators are going to continue to leave valuable points on the table.

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