Slow starts against East teams fast becoming problemlematic for Predators

The Nashville Predators have shown in recent outings that they can adjust to unfamiliar opponents. Eventually.

Usually, however, is too late.

The NHL’s expanded inter-conference play this season has put some unfamiliar opponents in front of Barry Trotz’s team, and those opponents often have put the Predators in the uncomfortable of position of trying to come from behind.

Following Monday’s 6-2 loss to the Boston Bruins, Nashville is a league-worst 1-12-1 when trailing after the first period.

Many of the problems at the start, particularly of late, have been against teams from the Eastern Conference. Nine times in their first 37 games the Predators have allowed more than one first-period goal and two-thirds of those (six) have been against Eastern Conference opponents. Over the last 21 games Nashville has trailed after one period nine times and all but once it was against a team from the East.

GOALS AGAINST, FIRST PERIOD

Vs. Eastern Conference
18 games
19 first period goals against
1.06 average

3 – at Washington (Dec. 7), lost 5-2
3 – vs. Montreal (Dec. 21), lost 4-3 (OT)
3 – vs. Boston (Dec. 23), lost 6-2
2 – at N.Y. Islanders (Nov. 12), lost 3-1
2 – at Pittsburgh (Nov. 15), lost 4-1
2 – at Tampa Bay (Dec. 19), lost 4-2

Vs. Western Conference
19 games
16 first period goals against
0.84 average

4 – at Winnipeg (Nov. 8), lost 5-0
3 – at St. Louis (Oct. 3), lost 4-2
2 – vs. Chicago (Dec. 17), lost 3-1

The Bruins led 3-0 at the first intermission Saturday just as Montreal did two nights earlier. The Predators rallied to force overtime against the Canadiens and closed to within one of the Bruins early in the third period before penalty problems thwarted their momentum.

Ultimately they earned one point in those two contests and fell to the bottom of the Central Division standings at the three-day holiday break.

“You can say what you want, but our guys show character,” coach Barry Trotz said. “We came back, battled back, and got it to 3-1 and 3-2 [against Boston]. … We had lots of momentum going forward. We had maybe one of the best teams in the league on their heels and gave us a chance to win.”

Nashville returns to action following the break with games at Dallas on Friday (7 p.m., Fox Sports-Tennessee) and at home against Los Angeles on Saturday (7 p.m., Fox Sports-Tennessee) – both Western Conference teams. Then come four in a row against Eastern Conference clubs beginning Monday with Detroit at Bridgestone Arena.

Fourteen of the Predators’ final 43 games are Eastern Conference opponents. Given the way Nashville has started against those teams lately, the end of inter-conference play can’t come soon enough.