Holding a 2-1 lead with 15 seconds left in regulation, the Nashville Predators allowed the tying goal to former Predator Craig Smith and the go-ahead goal 11 seconds later to Jani Hakanpaa as they lost 3-2 to their Central Division rival Dallas Stars in a matinee bout Saturday at Bridgestone Arena.
The Predators will head into the Christmas break on a sour note having lost two of their last three games with both defeats against teams ahead of them in the Western Conference standings.
Saturday’s loss is a tough one to stomach for Nashville, especially when a look at the analytics says the Predators should have never been in this game. But perhaps a silver lining positive for the Predators and their fans, however, is former Predator Matt Duchene, whose contract general manager Barry Trotz bought out this summer, was held without a point.
Every game you take the good with the bad, so here’s a look at what went right and what didn’t in the Predators’ loss Saturday.
(-) Scoring chances and shot differential
The first period played quite well in the Predators’ favor with 12 shots to Dallas’ eight and they had positive ratios with a 58.3% Corsi rating (all shot attempts counting on goal, missed, and blocked) (58.33%) and a 63.4% Fenwick rating (select shot attempts counting on goal and missed but not blocked). It should also be noted that shots that hit the post count as missed shots, not shots on goal, i.e., Filip Forsberg’s breakaway shot that hit the post with two minutes left in the game.
Through the remaining two periods, the Predators were outshot 16-7 and 10-2 with corresponding Corsi and Fenwick ratings being 25.6% and 24% in the second period and 21.1% and 29.4% in the third. As you can see, not ideal. Nashville’s scoring chances were greater than its actual shots, which is not a recipe for success.
When a team dominates in takeaways (Nashville had 8 to Dallas’ 2) and blocked shots (Nashville had 27 to Dallas’ 12), it’s assumed the underlying metrics would favor that team, but the Predators’ inability to turn their favorable numbers into converted goals (or even shots) is what resulted in the Stars hanging around and having a chance to rally late. The Predators can’t continue to allow teams to bring the game to them instead of truly taking control.
One of my favorite stats, PDO (save percentage + shooting percentage), also illustrates this point. The Predators came out slightly on top in PDO — Nashville 100.7 (91.2 + 9.5), Dallas 99.3 (90.5+ 88) — despite the loss, primarily due to Saros’ performance. In short, the Predators need to produce a higher volume of shots to be successful in Andrew Brunette‘s system, and 21 shots will not cut it no matter how well Saros plays.
(+) Colton Sissons
Sissons continues to be one of the most valuable players in the Predators’ lineup, netting another power-play goal for his 11th of the season. Sissons continues to find his way and prove his worth as a solid two-way forward with one goal (video below), three shots on goal, three hits, and four blocked shots against the Stars.
Sissons has eclipsed the 11-goal mark twice in his career, scoring 15 in 75 games during the 2018-19 season and scoring 12 in 82 games last season. At his current pace, he’s on track to obliterate his career high in goals scored. The result was not there for the Predators today, but more times than not, No. 10 can be relied on. His team-friendly contract continues to be the gift that keeps on giving.
(-) Giving opponents hope
The Predators’ biggest weakness this season continues to be the ability to closeout games. Nashville has had numerous two-goal leads throughout the season, and although the team has found ways to capture two points in many of them, they have also managed to give the opponent hope late in the third as they did on Saturday.
Brunette has continued to express the need for grit from his group, but the consistency of that grit has been lacking in the results this season late in games. Saturday’s loss mirrored the 7-5 and 3-2 losses to the Arizona Coyotes and Anaheim Ducks, respectively, earlier this season.
Successful teams find ways to grind out wins, and while these are tough lessons to learn, it will ultimately help the Predators’ development in the long run.
(+) Penalty Kill
The Predators’ penalty kill has looked solid recently, and they kept the Stars and their No. 13-ranked PP off the scoresheet on Saturday, allowing zero shots on goal on two Dallas power-play opportunities. There’s not much to say that’s new here, but a combination of two solid penalty-killing units, led by Jeremy Lauzon (2:30 short-handed ice time) and Alex Carrier (2:20 short-handed ice time), along with goaltender in Juuse Saros (31 saves on 34 shots) finding his game is a recipe for success.
(All statistics were provided by Natural Stat Trick and the NHL official website)
Follow Clay Brewer on Twitter/X: @ClayBrewer10