Yes, I'm aware the Predators' power play is currently clicking at 10.8 percent. Perhaps you've heard some discussion about it? And yes, head coach Peter Laviolette and the Predators are aware of it as well. Trust me, they are working on it.
Hardly any discussion of the team's performance goes by without a mention of this issue. And in addition to trying to work on the physical part of the solution, it becomes a mental hurdle as well. The Predators will persevere and continue to search for a breakthrough.
However, this is not the only facet of the game. The power-play issues have overshadowed the statistical strength of the team's success: 5-on-5 play. Special teams can be a difference maker, but the bulk of the game is played 5-on-5. Despite the team's current three-game skid, Nashville has dominated their opponents this season 5-on-5, particularly defensively.
The defensive aspect is impressive considering scoring in the NHL is up, and has been trending up the last four seasons. Going into Friday's contests, the average amount of goals scored in an NHL game was 6.14 (by the two teams combined, obviously). And look at the trend.
This season: 6.19
Last season: 5.94
Currently, 21 of the 31 teams are averaging 3.00 goals per game or more. The Predators are tied for ninth at 3.26. However, despite the uptick in offense the Predators are allowing a League-low 2.26 goals against per game.
Now, let's get back to even strength. Nashville has allowed only 26 5-on-5 goals all season in 19 games. That is the stingiest in the League. They have also scored 43. So, the plus-17 margin is the reason they have overcome their lackluster special teams play.
This is quite dominant and noteworthy, but hasn't gotten as much attention as it should because of the focus of the power play.
Will it continue this way? Hopefully, the defensive play can be counted on most nights. But, there will likely be statistical trends back and forth all year. Perhaps later in the season, I'll write a blog on how the power play has surged and the defense has sagged. That's the fun challenge of an 82-game season.
So, be aware of the team's strong performance to this point - dominant play 5-on-5, particularly with tight defense - and in a system that is designed to have an aggressive five-man attack.