Central: Predators’ power play key to success

By Andrew Sykes

Photo: Nashville Predators defensemen Shea Weber (L) and Ryan Suter (R) have led their team’s power play unit this season, Weber in power play goals and Suter in power play points (courtesy of

Danny Murphy/Icon SMI)

For any team that draws the Nashville Predators in the playoffs, you can bet that staying out of the penalty box will be a point in which their head coach will hammer home time and time again.

Although playing on the edge and sometimes going overboard in the physical department can work to a team’s advantage in the playoffs, it will not be a good strategy to employ against the Nashville Predators. This is because the Predators are the most dangerous team in the NHL with the man-advantage, making the decision to stay out of the box as much as possible a very wise one.

Owners of a league best 22% success rate on the power play, Nashville’s scoring depth both up front and on the blueline make them hard to defend given the fact that they have so many options.

Much as their approach to their offense in general, the Predators have spread the wealth with their power play and have received contributions from numerous sources. The club has seen 13 different players score a power play goal this season, a list that does not include Alexander Radulov, who has yet to tally a power-play marker since his return but will certainly be a major factor going forward.

Team captain Shea Weber leads the way with 10 power play goals, and is one of an impressive eight Predators who have scored five or more goals with the extra man. Patric Hornqvist has eight and rookie forward Craig Smith has six while five other Nashville forwards have five. Weber has led the team in power play points in every year since 2007-08, but surprisingly it is his defense partner Ryan Suter who leads this year with 25 points.

While the power-play will certainly need to continue to thrive in their final three games of the regular season and into the playoffs, the Predators ability to simply draw penalties is what will be most important. The club ranks 21st in the league with 118 power-play opportunities, a total that ranks them ahead of only St. Louis and Boston, two other playoff teams, in that category.

Power plays can be dicey in that they can go ice-cold just as quickly as they can be red-hot. When the intensity is amped up in the playoffs and opposing defenses make more of a concentrated effort at clamping down, a team’s power play may not be as effective.

For the Nashville Predators, their power-play will not be the deciding factor in their Stanley Cup pursuit. But, if it can be as good as it has been in the regular season, then their championship hopes will be increased.

Central Division Notes

Chicago Blackhawks Veteran winger Andrew Brunette missed Sunday night’s game against Minnesota with a foot injury but isn’t expected to miss any considerable time. Michael Frolik and Jimmy Hayes took turns in his place on the line with Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane in the club’s 5-4 shootout loss to the Wild.

Columbus Blue Jackets
After playing the role of spoiler in their three-game winning streak over the likes of Detroit, Florida and St. Louis, the club will be in Glendale tonight to take on a Phoenix team that is currently tied for the Pacific Division lead but is also just two points clear of ninth-place Dallas.

Detroit Red Wings
Defenseman Kyle Quincey has received a one-game suspension for his elbow on Florida’s Tomas Kopecky. Quincey will be unavailable for Wednesday’s road game in St. Louis.

St. Louis Blues
Despite the incredible season that the Blues have enjoyed, one thing they had been unable to accomplish was simply having their full lineup available. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Saturday’s game against Columbus marked the first time since March 3, 2010 that the team was at full strength. Regulars Andy McDonald, Matt D’Agostini and Roman Polak returned from injuries in the untimely loss to the Blue Jackets.