It’s only the first week of December, but the Nashville Predators are digging a hole that could be tough to climb out of 28 games into the season. That hole got bigger on Tuesday night as the Predators fell by a 3-1 score to the Vancouver Canucks.
The Predators didn’t play poorly on Tuesday night against Vancouver. In fact, they were playing very well defensively without Shea Weber and Kevin Klein against a team that boasted names like Henrik and Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler. However, the Predators weren’t able to capitalize on their chances and allowed Kesler to break through twice in the third period to lose their third consecutive game on home ice.
“I think we’re just playing well enough to not win,” said Predators forward Eric Nystrom. “We’re in there, and then there’s just a little quick stretch where we make a mistake or we don’t capitalize on an opportunity and that’s costing us points in the standings.”
With the loss, the Predators fell to 12th in the Western Conference and last in the Central Division with a 13-12-3 record good for 29 points. Nashville is currently seven points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference and 15 points behind the Central Division leading Chicago Blackhawks. There are still 54 games left in the season, but the Predators have to start making up ground fast.
“Is there urgency? Absolutely I think there should be. If there’s not, there’s a problem,” said Predators head coach Barry Trotz.
Vancouver is one of the teams the Predators are chasing in the Western Conference. The Canucks are also currently out of a playoff spot, albeit just by one point. They aren’t the same team they’ve been over the past few seasons. There is not as much depth offensively on this Canucks team, and they have a new head coach in John Tortorella. However, they’re still a team the Predators are likely going to be battling with for positioning for the remainder of the season.
“They’ve always had a good team since I’ve been in the league. The twins are good players, and that Kesler line is really solid. The play the game hard and the right way. I think Tortorella kind of demands that, but that had a pretty good structure in place to begin with. They’re a good team, and we were right there toe-to-toe with them for a lot of the game. We’ve just got to find ways to get points because the hole is pretty big, and we’ve got to start going up,” Nystrom said.
The problem for the Predators over the last few games, and really for the majority of the season, has been the lack of goal-scoring. Nashville has been getting a lot of high-quality scoring chances, especially in the last two games against Philadelphia and Vancouver. They’re just not converting on those chances. The Predators have scored three goals in their last three games.
“Obviously tonight was a good goaltender, and all of the goalies in the league are good. I think you get worried when you’re not getting the chances, but we definitely could use some ugly ones around the net,” Nystrom said. “Maybe one nice one would be great, but a couple ugly ones are the way that it works around this league. We’ve just got to get in front of that net, and all of us can do a better job of that for sure.”
“We’ve just got to bury our chances,” Trotz said. “You can’t make a guy score. You can make him shoot the puck, you can make him go to the hard areas, but he’s got to execute it. There’s no one in this room or any other room that can score for someone else. When the puck is on their stick, you’ve got to bury it or get buried.”