It’s no secret by now that the 12-5-2 Nashville Predators are off to one of the best starts in franchise history. However, one area of the team’s game wasn’t producing quite as much as they would have liked in the early going.
But that’s beginning to change.
Through their first 15 contests on the season, the Preds were only able to convert on six power play opportunities. They’ve now scored three goals on the man advantage in their last four outings.
“I think there’s confidence building,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “The power play is starting to get some more looks and some more shots which is good. I think with the new pieces, we’re trying to find some chemistry and positioning on where guys are with their strengths, but it has looked better and continues to get looks.”
Not that the Preds were down on themselves through the first handful of games with the lack of success on the power play, but as those in the room would be first to admit, they want to score when those chances arise. They’re finding ways to do so as of late.
“I think we’ve been playing pretty decently on the power play all year, but it’s all about the goals,” forward Filip Forsberg said. “I think we’re just shooting the puck a little more and hitting the net. That’s the key.”
One of those that has converted recently in the 5-on-4 is Taylor Beck. The 6-foot-2 forward has been used as a net front presence on the power play and was able to tally a marker doing just that on Tuesday in Toronto.
Beck says the focus isn’t so much on where the goaltender is in those situations, but rather where the next shot is coming from, so that he is able to take away the sightlines for the opposition as much as possible.
“The strategy is to not let the goalie see the puck for the most part, but I take a peek every once in a while to let myself know where he is,” Beck said. “[I want to know] where the next shot is coming from to take his eyes away as much as possible and hope it goes in. You never know what is going to happen.”
The Preds bench boss likes what he’s seen out of Beck parked at the top of the blue paint in those situations, acknowledging that the winger is doing exactly what he’s been asked to do on the man advantage.
“You’ve got to be willing to stand there first of all and pay the price for the screens, the tips and the rebounds,” Laviolette said. “Beck’s goal [in Toronto] is a perfect example of how we want him there and why we want him there. That’s what we’ve worked on in practice and talked about and he did an excellent job. He gets a lot of sticks on pucks in practice, so it seems like a good fit. We’re trying it and seeing how it goes.”
Laviolette reiterated the fact that, like his team and systems overall, many of the personnel on the power play are also new to working with one another in those settings.
“We’re trying to find shots and get open, but again, with Ribeiro being new and Neal being new and Forsberg being new, Weber and Josi have been here for a little bit, but the other players are new to them,” Laviolette said. “Everybody is new to this. I think it’s getting better and we continue to work at it.”
There’s no doubt it’s getting better, and with those PP numbers improving, so are the ways in which the Preds are able to put the puck in the net. As defenseman Roman Josi stated, those goals provide a measurable boost.
“It definitely helps if you get a couple bounces your way,” Josi said. “Those goals help, and it gives you a lot of confidence. We knew we just had to stay with it [on the power play] and keep shooting. Sometimes, they’re going to go in.”
And they are indeed. The Predators may not have been thought of as a tough draw during early season power play opportunities, but that’s beginning to change.
“We’ve got two really good power play [units],” Beck said. “Everyone can shoot the puck, so as long as we can keep converging on the net, I think we’re going to keep having success as we go.”