The Nashville Predators aren’t a team that’s going to blow anybody away offensively on most nights. However, they do have a formula of strong forechecking that makes them successful when they’re able to follow that formula. The Predators weren’t able to follow that formula on Saturday night against the New York Rangers simply because the Rangers wouldn’t allow it.
The Predators weren’t able to establish a consistent forecheck, or really create sustained chances of any sort, in their 2-0 loss to the Rangers on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena. New York played an incredible game defensively, and the Predators didn’t help themselves offensively.
Nashville had a hard time getting through the neutral zone when they had the puck because New York was playing so well defensively. The Rangers were tenacious in their pursuit of the puck all night long, which made it hard for the Predators to enter the offensive zone with possession. Instead, they were forced to dump the puck in the zone, which did not play into their favor.
“We were just dumping it right to the goalie the whole game, and if you do that, the goalies play the puck so well that they just get it and they move it and they’re going the other way. We couldn’t get a forecheck going, and that’s our strength,” said Predators forward Eric Nystrom.
The Rangers’ defense corps played a great game, however their forwards were just as vital defensively. New York was able to establish a forecheck, and their forwards did a very good job of providing additional pressure from behind and basically setting up a trap near the neutral zone.
A perfect example of that trap transpired on New York’s second goal of the game by Derek Stepan. Viktor Stalberg was attempting to skate the puck out of the defensive zone for the Predators and was being pressured from behind by Chris Kreider. Stepan positioned himself perfectly in the neutral zone and was able to poke the puck away from Stalberg, which led to his eventual conversion of a 2-on-1 chance.
“They were back-pressuring us a lot,” Nystrom said. “Their forwards put pressure on us from behind, and they actually picked a few plays off back-pressuring us. They took away our speed and we didn’t have a chance.”
The loss to the Rangers halted Nashville’s winning streak at three games, and dropped their record on the season to 11-10-2. The good news for the Predators is that after spending virtually all of the month of November on the road, their travel schedule becomes significantly less daunting in the near future with five of their next six games at home.
“We would’ve liked to have this one, but we’ve got a lot of home games here this month coming up so that’s huge for us,” Nystrom said. “But just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you’re going to put your skates on and win. You have to work. Tonight we worked hard, we’ve just got to be better.”