When you think of the most glaring weaknesses on the Nashville Predators over the last few seasons, one that immediately comes to mind is the special teams’ play. Most specifically, the powerplay has been a colossal joke since the 2018-2019 season. That was until this year.
The powerplay has taken a massive stride forward, ranking seventh in the league at 24.4 percent. For a unit that had nothing but constant trouble in the recent past, this is a huge sigh of relief, but Predators fans should know not to get too optimistic too soon.
A similar thing happened last year when the emergence of Eeli Tolvanen‘s shot turned the powerplay into a unit to be feared. But when he got injured, their over-reliance on him was exposed, and they never found their form for the rest of the season, even when he came back.
But this time around, there is reason to have hope in its sustainability, and it is not just because it has been consistent for three months. The work done by Dan Lambert and company actually shows that the powerplay has evolved.
It is not as if the team is just looking for Tolvanen in his usual spot, as they were doing every time last year. This year, there is crisp and legitimate puck movement, there is structure, there is chemistry, and they are keeping the penalty killers on their heels. This goal by Tanner Jeannot is a perfect example of just how far they have come during this season.
If there is one coach on the Predators who deserves a ton of credit this year, it is Lambert. Two years of poor work and results put much doubt in the minds of the fans, but he has seemingly learned from his mistakes, as the powerplay actually looks like a well-run unit. And it is making a huge difference.
When the Predators’ powerplay was down near the bottom of the league, the overall feeling of the team’s play was one of disappointment. It was always the question of what could this team accomplish if they just had good special teams.
Now that they are getting strong special teams play, and especially on the powerplay, they are exceeding expectations. It is later than they would have liked for it to be, but Predators fans are getting their answer that yes, this team actually is pretty good when they play well on the powerplay and penalty kill.
This is not to say that special teams are what makes or breaks this team or any other. But it can make a huge difference, and especially for a team like the Predators, we can say that the powerplay is boosting their confidence, as well as improving the results on the ice.
If they are to maintain their status as a clear playoff team, the powerplay will have to remain every bit as good as it has been. This is largely due to the fact that this Predators team is prone to inconsistencies.
Tolvanen and Philip Tomasino are key to the team moving forward, and they will continue to go through their ups and downs as they familiarize themselves with the NHL. The offense overall is not talented enough to the point where we can expect the production to continue without a hiccup.
But with the way the powerplay is looking, they will not need the best talent to run it successfully. Schemes and creativity are the keys to being dangerous keeping opposing teams guessing, and the Predators are finding that on their powerplay. Let us just hope it stays that way.
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