After a stellar start, are the Nashville Predators coming back to earth or merely having a slump? It is an interesting question as their division rivals and two times former Stanley Cup champions, the St. Louis Blues, have caught on to reclaim the title of the top team in the West.
Why is the team not winning like early in the year? The first factor is surely the lower efficiency of the power play. While early in the year the power play was clipping at a 20%+ rate, it is now down to 17% and getting worse daily. There is also the performance of Varlamov which is of concern. The starter is just above .500 showing a 13-11-2 record so far in the year, with a poor save percentage of .894. In comparison, Preds backup Giguere is 8-1-0 with a save percentage of .922. According to the extra stats, Varlamov has played only 12 quality games in a total of 25 games with no buzy nights or headstands. Among starters, it is one of the worst performance.
There are players that were hot early but have cooled down since like Ray Whitney. Still leading the Preds in points produced with 36 in 35 games, Whitney is merely +2 while Legwand, Stewart and McDonough, all on his heels in terms of points per game, are all over +16. The Predators need a better overall effort on defense as they can't constantly rely upon outscoring their opponents.
With close to half the season over, the Predators are at a crossroads. Can they regain some speed and push past the St. Louis Blues or will they keep their inconsistent play and slowly slump down around the pack of playoffs contenders?