By Jim Diamond
Two games into their six-game preseason schedule, the Nashville Predators have a 1-1-0 record after splitting a home-and-home series with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Through those two games, the Predators are a combined 0-10 on the power play after going 0-5 in both games.
With a new coach, new system, and some new players on the power play units, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the power play is still a work in progress. In Thursday’s 1-0 win over the Lightning, the Predators were credited with 11 shots on their five power plays. They had seven power play shots in Tuesday’s loss in Tampa.
“In the first game, I thought the power play seemed to move a little bit better but didn’t have the possession time,” Peter Laviolette said after Thursday’s game. “We had the possession time here but didn’t get the chances that we were looking for.”
In both preseason games, the Predators used a mix of veteran and younger players on their game roster, with more veterans in the lineup Thursday.
“All of that will come,” Laviolette continued. “We’ve got new pieces that we are trying to fit in. You talk about the first unit and James (Neal) is new to that unit, and Olli (Jokinen) is new to that unit, and I think those are the things that you have to work through in training camp. We can now go back and see maybe it was a little bit stale doing something this way here and look to maybe go in a different direction, not necessarily with players, but just the different mindset or a different approach on the power play to try and open up more shots, open up Shea’s (Weber) shot and James’ shot.”
During one third period power play, some of the fans in Bridgestone Arena became restless as the Predators worked the puck around the perimeter looking for that perfect shot that did not materialize.It was fun to hear the fans yell “Shoot” at the power play again. It feels more like hockey season now.
“On the power play, trying to find a goal there, I think we are thinking a little bit too much of where to be and what to do,” newcomer Mike Ribeiro said. “It’s a matter of keep practicing that.”
Weber led the team in shots on goal Thursday night with seven, four of which came on the power play. He was also credited with one missed shot on the man advantage.
The captain led the team with 12 power-play goals last season, five better than Patric Hornqvist and Craig Smith who were tied for second with seven each. Nashville’s power play was 12th best in the NHL last season, clicking at a 19.2% success rate. The Predators also made history last season by not allowing a shorthanded goal against, which was the first time that happened in an 82-game regular season.
It remains to be seen, but losing Hornqvist in the trade that brought Neal to Nashville could have a significant impact on the team’s power play success, especially when it comes to the team’s biggest threat on the man advantage.
Of Weber’s 12 power-play goals last season, Hornqvist was on the ice for every single one of them – all of them. He isn’t the most skilled player in the league by any stretch, but the guy is absolutely fearless as evidenced by him placing himself squarely in harm’s way in front of the opponent’s net when Weber lines up his powerful shot.
Weber is known for shooting pucks through the net, breaking end boards, and breaking bones of those who happen to get in the way of his shot, which exceeds 100 mph.
Hornqvist plays the pest role well on the power play by hanging just outside the blue paint while the puck is in the offensive zone. He can irritate opposing defensemen and goaltenders with the best of them, taking away some of their focus and obscuring the goaltender’s eyes as well.
And in a striking bit of timing, this just in from a Pittsburgh practice.
Finding another Hornqvist-like player could certainly help Nashville’s power play come together more quickly this season.