With only 17 shots on goal against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday night, Nashville failed to hit the 20-shot mark for the fifth time in 11 games this season.
More importantly, it was the tenth time in 11 games that Nashville was outshot by their opponent.
“We weren’t getting pucks and bodies to the net,” Nashville forward Colin Wilson said. “We were playing an outskirts game and not getting to the interior.”
“We didn’t have anybody driving the middle,” Predators head coach Barry Trotz said. “We drive wide, put the brakes on and then we’re making lateral passes…Sometimes you’ve got to put it to the net and play off the net more.”
The inability to actually put pucks on net has proven to be a bane quite often for Nashville so far this season. Sunday night was the third time Nashville had been shut out in the young season. In those 3 games, Nashville has registered a grand total of 51 shots, or an average of 17 shots a game.
When the Predators do manage to score, as Robby Stanley of Smashville247.net pointed out, they have managed to at least remain tied through regulation, picking up a point in the standings.
As for finding a fix to the shooting woes, Trotz and Wilson both believe that the problem might be more of head-related than chemistry-related.
“It’s just a mentality,” Wilson said. “You want to get bodies there, but it’s just a mentality of wanting to score and wanting to get to the interior position. It’s nothing you can practice, you just have to do it.”
“It’s a mindset – you’ve got to be determined to get there,” Trotz said. “I think it’s fun when you’re down in their end and creating chances. What I don’t think is fun is playing in your own end when you don’t get pucks to the net and you turn them over and they go the other way. Defense is hard work. Offense is fun.”
Obviously, an inability to register shots generally means that the offense fails to produce much on the scoreboard. In 11 games, the Predators have scored more than two goals just four times.
“It’s always frustrating when you can’t get offense going, especially when you’re playing in the top, upper lines and that’s your job,” Wilson said. “To not get those shots, not get those chances – it brings down the momentum of the game and it’s not as fun to play.”
“Everything has to be gritty in this league,” Trotz said. “There’s not very many pretty things. Patrick Kane can do something pretty, but Patrick Kane doesn’t play for the Nashville Predators – unless we trade for him or something. We’ve got to keep it simple. If you look around the league, the top offensive players – you look at Jonathan Toews or Joe Thornton – they drive to the net hard. It’s a working man’s league.”
“I wouldn’t say that it’s worrisome,” Wilson added. “It’s something that you see and you realize that you’re going to have to correct. Obviously, we keep seeing it and we still haven’t changed. We have to get bodies to the net and pucks to the net and just be a little bit better offensively. I think we’ve been doing well in the d-zone. We just have to put that offense together and hopefully it will come soon.”
Trotz insists that the only way to solve the team’s inability to go down the middle is to have the mindset and the willingness to do it. Due to the short season, the team is not able to run practices at the same frequency and intensity that they usually would.
“There’s no practice time, forget about practicing anything,” Trotz said. “We have four games. We have four games probably all week every week for the rest of the year. We’re going to maybe have one practice a week.”
In the end, for Trotz, the solution to the offensive woes is fairly obvious.
“We’ve got to have a lot more traffic, especially in the offensive zone and a lot more net presence.”