Perhaps the biggest question heading into the 2013-14 season for the Nashville Predators remains the biggest question for them after the first two games of the season. Are the Predators going to be able to score enough goals?
Nashville only scored a combined three goals in their first two games of the season in St. Louis and Colorado respectively. That kind of goal pace is not going to inspire success over the course of an 82-game season. However, when throwing the goal numbers out and looking at how the Predators actually played, there were some encouraging signs.
“I really think we played good,” said Predators alternate captain Patric Hornqvist. “We got a lot of pucks to the net. Now we just have to find those second and third chances and keep growing every day. Try to get better every time we come to the rink, and obviously the pucks are going to come for us and the goals too so keep working hard. If we’re working like we did the first two games, I know we’re going to have a lot of success this year.”
The Predators had some good scoring chances in both games. They were possessing and moving the puck well, and they posted a combined 57 shots on goal during those two games. The chances were definitely there, but the goals did not come.
“You worry when you’re not getting the chances,” said Predators forward Colin Wilson. “We have been getting the chances. We’ve just got to bear down and score. Obviously, we have a past of not being able to score enough goals, but I like the way that we were playing and our puck possession, the way we were thinking.”
So what do the Predators have to do to finish the job when they get those chances? Their defense, while young, is very talented and will more than likely be able to keep them in most games for the majority of the season. However, there are going to be times when the Predators are going to need a big goal and somebody is going to have to deliver that goal. How can the Predators turn the good scoring chances into goals?
“You’ve got to capitalize. You’ve got to keep funneling pucks to the net,” said Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz. “We’ve got to score in different ways. We don’t have, with all due respect to everybody, but we don’t have that one line that we can just say ‘Hey these guys can carry us and if we play even the rest of the night we’ll be fine.’ We do it by committee. Some nights, one line is our number one line and the next night another line is.”
The Predators have taken the scoring by committee approach in the past and have been successful with that mentality. Just two seasons ago in 2011-12, the Predators took that same mentality and finished with the best power play in the league and in the top 10 in goals for the season.
“We need to do it by committee from the first to the fourth. We can do it on the power play. We’re going to have to get some skill goals, which we have some people who can do that. We’re going to have to get some grunt goals. We’re going to have to get some with our D jumping up and being part of the attack. We’re going to have to get some power play goals. If we do that, I think we’re a good enough team in terms of depth and hardness and the way we play that if we do that, that’s how we’ve been successful. That’s how we’ve had 100-point seasons and almost 50-win seasons, by that mentality. I think this group is very capable of doing that,” Trotz said.
Nashville is confident that if they stick with the same formula they’ve had in the first two games of the season, the goals will come. It’s just all about finishing on the chances they get, which is something they must do.
“I think it’s a little bit about luck. Just get one bounce, and then everybody’s going and all that. But it’s tough. We have to spend time there and make sure we have our sticks on the ice and keep going. It’s going to come sooner or later,” Hornqvist said.
“A little bit of puck luck, a little bit of bearing down I think. Once things start clicking and guys start getting confidence you just automatically bear down and you’re putting those in. We’re getting the shots, but it’s only two games. It’s nothing to really worry about,” Wilson said.
One big thing that could play into the Predators’ favor in the short term is the schedule. Nashville is about to begin a five-game homestand, which could be a good way to establish some offensive consistency and momentum for the team moving forward.
“It’s great actually. I was thinking about it. The next couple of games, I’m really excited to play in front of our fans. That’s an easy way to get momentum is getting excited to play and just getting out there. It’ll be great,” Wilson said.
“These five games are going to be really important for us,” Hornqvist said. “We need a good stretch here. We know we’re usually pretty good at home and everybody is excited so just keep playing the same way we did in St. Louis and Colorado and we’re going to win some games here.”
Nashville’s offense could get a lift on this homestand as well, maybe even as soon as Tuesday. The Predators have been without the services of Viktor Stalberg and Filip Forsberg in the first two games of the season. Forsberg has been practicing and seems to be close to making a return. Could Forsberg play on Tuesday night against the Minnesota Wild?
“I don’t know actually. It’s up to the coaches and the doctors to let me back in,” Forsberg said. “I feel pretty good and have been skating a lot, so it’s up to the coaches and the doctors. If they want me to play, then I’ll play.”
Trotz said there was a chance that Forsberg could, indeed, play on Tuesday night for Nashville’s home-opener. If he’s able to, that should only help a Predators offense that is going to have to score by committee all season long.