Ben Chopping
NHL
15-12-2016
11034

Nashville Predators’ tragic away form cutting them out of the playoff picture

By December 15, 2016
Quite remarkably, the Predators sit in a playoff position with one of the worst away records in the NHL, but will they drop out if it doesn't improve? 

After 28 games played by the Nashville Predators, they sit with not only the worst away record of any team in a playoff place, but also the worst away record of any team in the Western Conference, with only the shambles that is the New York Islanders having a lesser road record than the Predators in the entire NHL.

At 3-9-2 it’s fair to say that Nashville have been suffering from a bit of road sickness this season, with the only real excuse that they had coming in the game in Detroit on October 21, when a number of players suffered from food poisoning after dining out before their game against the Red Wings.

With their only road wins coming against the Colorado Avalanche twice and the Ottawa Senators, can the Nashville Predators hold onto their playoff place with such a poor away record?

 

Nashville still very strong at home

P.K. Subban and Roman Josi Nashville Predators blue lines

Nashville hold a record of 10-2-2 at the Bridgestone Arena, which has enabled them to claim the second wild card place in the Western Conference.

With the eighth most goals for and sixth least goals against at home, the Predators have been performing at a level reminiscent of that of last season, when they managed to make it to the second round of the playoffs – losing to eventual finalists, the San Jose Sharks.

However, they used to host a perfect home penalty kill, which was breached by a third period Adam Henrique powerplay strike at the start of December, but now they sit with a measly 85.0 penalty kill percentage, only good for 12th in the league – having conceded six powerplay goals whilst only being short-handed 13 times at home in their last four games. If the cracks are beginning to show at home, the Predators really need to step-up their away game.

 

Star Predators losing momentum on the road

Mike Fisher getting around Jori Lehtera Nashville v St. Louis

At home, the Nashville Predators have been high scoring and low conceding, being led by Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg, both on 13 points, along with captain Mike Fisher (12 points), James Neal and Viktor Arvidsson (11 points), and then elite defensemen P.K. Subban and Roman Josi – both on ten points.

Flip over to the away statistics and you see only one name in double digits in the points column – Mike Ribeiro, ten points – with the highest scoring of the aforementioned players when away being Arvidsson, with three goals and eight points.

With the team from Tennessee having played 14 games at home and 14 games away, it’s clear to see that the stars simply aren’t clicking on hostile ice, but what stands out the most is the plus/minus of the whole team. At home, not a single regular starter has a negative rating, with fourth liner Colton Sissons’ +1 being the worst rating of any regular skater. Roman Josi posts the strongest rating of +8, showing how influential the Swiss defenseman is to the defensive game as well as the offensive.

When away it’s a completely different story. Only four of Nashville’s regular skaters have a neutral or positive rating, with Austin Watson’s +3 being the best. Roman Josi nearly flips his home rating with a weak -7 when away, but P.K. Subban posts the worst at -12 on road ice.

With the Nashville Predators only scoring 33 in their 14 away games – eighth lowest in the NHL – and allowing 51 goals against when on the road – seventh most in the NHL – they’re almost performing to the exact opposite of how they fare on home ice.

There is no one or no few players who can take the rap for this as it’s clearly the whole team struggling in their white jerseys. Whether it’s how they travel, how they prepare to travel, or if management has simply told them to focus entirely on home games – seems unlikely, but could be the case – something needs to change as the Predators risk missing out on the playoffs.

 

Can Nashville’s home record pull them into the playoffs?

Nashville Predators struggling to contrain the Winnipeg Jets

Given their current standing, it’s clearly not all doom and gloom for the Nashville Predators, with 30 points and a plus-three goal difference after 28 games whilst sitting in a playoff spot. So it wouldn’t be too farfetched to start thinking that their current record would be enough to see them to the postseason, but they have history against them.

With a 3-9-2 record on the road, Nashville post a 21.43 win percentage with a 35.71 points percentage. Over the last decade of NHL, going back to before the wild card standings were forged, no other team that have made the playoffs have ended with such weak away winning percentages.

The table below shows the teams with the worst away records of all playoff teams in each NHL season over the last decade, along with their win and point percentages.

Year Team Standing Away Record Win Percentage    Point Percentage   
2016/17     Nashville Predators Western WC2    3-9-2 (28 games in) 21.43% 35.71%
2015/16 Minnesota wild Western WC2 17-17-7 41.46% 58.54%
2014/15 Tampa Bay Lightning     Atlantic 2 18-16-7 42.86% 59.52%
2013/14 Dallas Stars Western WC2 17-20-4 40.48% 50.00%
2012/13 San Jose Sharks Pacific 3 8-14-2 (Lockout season)    33.33% 41.66%
2011/12 Washington Capitals Southeast 2 16-21-4 39.02% 48.78%
2010/11 Montreal Canadiens Northeast 2 20-19-2 48.78% 53.66%
2009/10 Philadelphia Flyers Atlantic 3 17-21-3 41.46% 48.78%
2008/09 Montreal Canadiens Northeast 2 17-20-4 41.46% 51.22%
2007/08 Colorado Avalanche Northwest 2 17-19-5 41.46% 53.66%
2006/07 Calgary Flames Northwest 3 13-20-8 31.71% 51.22%

The 2006/07 Calgary Flames posted a pretty woeful 31.71 win percentage on the road whilst the 2012/13 San Jose Sharks only had a point percentage of 41.66 when away, but both percentages are significantly better than what this season’s Predators have managed so far this season.

So, are the Nashville Predators doomed to slowly leak out of playoff contention as the away losses stack up, or is there still hope for them yet?

 

Can the Predators recover?

Erik Karlsson checks Viktor Arvidsson in Ottawa

In all fairness, the Predators have had quite a rough road schedule so far, facing the likes of the Chicago Blackhawks, the California trio and the St. Louis Blues – who have also been struggling on the road this season, but host a mighty home record as well. Wins against Colorado should have been expected anyway, along with the games in Dallas, Toronto, Winnipeg and two in Arizona – in which Nashville combine for a 0-4-1 record.

It doesn’t get any better for the Predators as we edge towards the Christmas break, with them visiting the high-flying Philadelphia Flyers – currently on a ten game winning streak – and then the surprisingly sturdy New Jersey Devils, who not only have Taylor Hall firing on all cylinders, but are also 8-1-2 at the Prudential Center.

After Christmas, Nashville are to visit the St. Louis Blues and then, after New Years, they travel to play the Tampa Bay Lightning, face the Florida Panthers the very next night, and then go to Chicago. Luckily for Nashville, both of the Floridian sides are sub-par at home, but even without Nashville’s travel woes, you’d favour them both to trump the Predators.

Luckily for the Nashville Predators, it’s still early days in the NHL, and they have time to turn their away record around. Form comes and goes in the NHL, just one lucky win could spur the Preds into action, making them more confident on the road. However, if they don’t manage to boost their win and point percentages in their away record, they will surely miss out on the postseason.

 

Do you think that the Nashville Predators can better their away game? Let us know in the comments section below. 

 

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