Preds' Woes Continue; Look to Turn It Around Against Philly
I try not to overreact with a few bad games as I stated in my previous post when it came to the Dallas home and home. Granted Oettinger for Dallas is playing lights out in net for Dallas, so the optimism was initially warranted. But the woes continue with loss after loss and embarrassing third period collapses, blowing 3-1 leads against both LA and Columbus as the most recent. One game can be written off to a variety of circumstances, but multiple games create a path to troubling trends that can spiral quickly if not remedied. I tried to view Opening Night through optimistic, gold-tinted lenses, but now it seems my own biases were overly optimistic. Something I’ll freely admit. This team has potential, but this potential cannot be realized without substantive change and a willingness to rock the boat when needed. Hint: It’s needed now.
Below are some key numbers from the first five games collectively and then individually to give context of what’s occurred outside what the eye-test has already revealed quite evidently. I’m presenting these as baselines to build upon further as future articles will seek to dive into the underlying numbers of this team and the players because, frankly, this team on paper is nowhere near as bad as they are performing. Hynes continues to chalk up the results to bad luck and not being able to get good bounces with the identity being present. I don't buy into this at all. I think the identity is non-existent with this team currently. So, in my view, what’s going on?
5/12 points with 2-3-1 record
15GF and 21 GA with a -6 goal differential
PowerPlay: 3.7% 1/27
Penalty Kill: 84% 17/25
San Jose Sharks
San Jose Sharks
Columbus Blue Jackets
Goaltending by the #s
.3 Goals saved above expected
.06 wins above replacement
.897 Save %
1.2 Goals saved above expected
.63 Wins above replacement
.919 Save %
In short, Saros isn’t saving the team like he did in the core parts of last season, so that’s bringing everything else back to earth as well.
General Thoughts on the Columbus Outing and Going Forward
Last night against Columbus, the Forsberg offside was a play that should never happen. It’s pure unawareness and unacceptable for a professional, let alone a professional making the money he is. It seems like the whole team is one step behind, unaware of their surroundings and making unprofessional mistakes. Fabbro letting Gauedreau behind him for the breakaway is another absolutely unacceptable occurrence from last night.
These mistakes continue to be evident in the absurd penalties that are being taken. Exhibit A: Duchene’s first penalty against LA. Exhibit B: Duchene’s second pirouette penalty against LA.
Carrier needs to be sat for a few games. He’s just not cutting it right now. We’re wanting him to be a Josi 2.0 to some extent offensively, but I think a few games from the seats will let him take a step back and see the game better. Nothing in this league is given to you. It must be earned. And his offense is lacking and is not able to even fractionally make up for his defensive liabilities as of late. The physicality and chemistry of Lauzon and Boro needs to be here for now. They won’t put points on the board, but I think the intangibles and the energy of that pairing will do wonders for the rest of the lineup.
Lankinen has played quite well in both of his outings. If not for him, it would’ve been much much worse in Columbus. I lost count for the amount of times that Gaudreau in particular had point blank shots in the slot.
For being a “shut down” pair to quote ESPN for the 100th time, the Ekholm-Mcdonaugh pairing has been far from it. When something doesn’t work, it’s time to try something else. I really like both of these players and the pairing in general, but adjustments need to be made to catch a spark. When both find their game and are exposed to different situations, then we can explore pairing them back up. For the Preds to be successful, both of these players need to become that true shut-down pairing with a little offense sprinkled here and there.
Why Hynes sticks to the same failing combinations is beyond me. I understand there is a “system,” but the best coaches adapt when facts change. Continuing to throw out bigger bodies is understandable, but when you are getting embarrassed night in and night out and getting out hit, then maybe the results that are anticipated are not transpiring.
I refuse to adopt the often-used idea of a lack of effort or the players not trying. These are professionals. Of course, they’re trying. But sometimes a different look is needed to reinvigorate the creativity for a team. See your situation from a different perspective as they say.
As for changes, here’s what I would do for Saturday night against Philly:
45, 36, and 47 Out
Power Play 1
9-92-22 (Nino in front with a diamond around him)
Power Play 2
95-64-84 (Jeannot in front with a diamond around him)
This powerplay format will accept shots from the outside but the goal is to get it to 22 or 84 in front and deflections with everyone collapsing for rebounds).
Additionally, the powerplay breakout needs to be spread out more. Having a guy breakout from behind the net with 3 guys circling in and only a single guy cutting cross ice keeps everything too clogged which prevents the initial pass, and then results in a short pass getting stopped at either side of the opposing blueline by a pinch from the opposing backline or a forced dump by the Pred player brining the puck in. It’s time to stretch the ice out to break up the opposing team PK from clogging the entry. This opens up multiple options and pushes the opposing defenders back enabling the skater to enter with the puck pass or revert to the old flip in of the Laviolette era.
(Here is a readout man bringing the puck out with both sides hooking low towards the boards to give outlet passes).
In-Zone Setup Example
27 22 9
(Here, 59 is directly above 22 with 92 below the goal line controlling the tempo and moving from side to side to shift the direction and looking for options when given the puck).
As for the PK, it's been quite solid. The more penalties you take, the more likely you are to give up a goal or two. We all know that the penalties need to stop. Lower the amount of them taken, and the PK percentage will adjust accordingly for the better. No grave issues here at this time in my view.
For further changes, I'd also call up Tomasino. It’s time to mix up the flow and intensity of what each line brings which explains the complete shuffling proposed above, despite the fan favorite Sissons line. The experiment with new, big bodies isn’t cutting it. Change is needed. It’s not panic time, but it is adaptation time. I see none of the latter recently which is a cause for concern that could lead to appropriately placed panic. I like the envisioned style that Hynes wants to implement, but I think the lineup has not accurately reflected what is sought. A combination of speed, skill, physicality, and size should be present on every line for such a system to work. Preds hockey has never been and under current construction will never be a dangle party. It will be gritty goals from hard-nosed effort as seen in the first two goals in Columbus. All from hard work and results of second and third efforts, not snipes. This is the Preds' identity and it can be successful.
If the current trends continue, things will get much worse before they get better, and we best not hope for another wild streak as experienced the last few years to sneak into the playoffs.
* All stats above are courtesy of NHL.com, moneypuck.com, and hockey-reference.com
Congrats to GM David Poile for tonight being his 3,000th NHL game.