By Ron Wynn
The season is still young, but the Predators’ offensive problems are beginning to get old. They suffered another loss on the current road trip Monday night, this one 4-0 to the Phoenix Coyotes. Making matters worse was it was their second straight defeat to a team with a relative newcomer or fresh face in goal. The Coyotes’ Chad Johnson hadn’t started an NHL game since 2010. But he held the Predators scoreless on 21 shots. That followed Saturday’s loss to Anaheim with Viktor Fasth making his NHL debut in goal.
But it’s not just losing to unseasoned goalies that has Predators’ coaching and management upset. It’ things like having power plays where they get no shots on goal, or giving up easy scores on bad turnovers that get them into early holes. Antoine Vermette’s third goal of the season came as he picked off a careless pass and fired a wrist shot past Pekka Rinne before he could get set. That came just three minutes into the game. The Coyotes’ next goal was at the 16:48 mark of the second period, while they added two more in the third. One came on a power play at 15:02, the other at even strength at the 11:34 point.
The absence of Patric Hornqvist, last season’s leading scorer with 27 goals, is clearly having an impact. It was announced before the game he would be out at least three to four weeks. Hornqvist suffered a knee injury Saturday night against Anaheim, and returned to Nashville for examination and evaluation. Coach Barry Trotz said after the game the Predators might look to Milwaukee for some assistance if things don’t improve soon. The bad thing is despite his 0-2-3 record, Pekka Rinne has played well in goal. Had he not stopped several point-blank shots Monday night, the score would have been much worse.
Nashville had 22 shots on goal to Phoenix’s 25, but it was the long droughts where the offense did little that is discouraging. The Predators had only three shots on goal the entire first period. They gradually increased the pressure, with seven in the second and 12 in the third, but got so far behind none of that mattered.
The Predators played a disciplined game, with the Coyotes getting just four power play opportunities. They scored on one. Nashville was zero for two. After six games, the Predators are tied with Detroit and Columbus in the middle of the Central Division pack with five points. They trail the first-place Chicago Blackhawks (off to a sizzling 6-0 start) who have 12 points, an St. Louis Blues, who have 10. They are last among Central Division teams in goals scored (10) and second in goals allowed (18), not a good combination.
The road trip continues with games Thursday against Los Angeles and Saturday against San Jose. Both are 9:30 p.m. starts and are on Fox Tennessee.
Photo By: AP Photo/Rick Scuteri