The Nashville Predators got their long-awaited offensive breakthrough last week, and it came from the defense.
A 6-5 overtime victory at Ottawa last Thursday accounted for exactly one-third of the team’s goals through the first 10 games.
Five of the goals in that contest, including the game-winner by Shea Weber were scored by defensemen. Weber also scored in the third period, Ryan Suter had a pair of goals and the recently recalled Cody Franson got the first of his career.
In the eight games that preceded that one, Nashville’s blue liners scored just once.
“We need our defense to help out and we need our forwards to help out – all three lines or all four lines,” coach Barry Trotz said. “We’re still a team that we win because we get good goaltending and we play a good team defensive game and we make sure our compete level is high.”
That victory snapped a six-game losing streak, but the production level did not last.
Two nights later nobody — defensemen or forwards — scored in a 2-0 loss at Chicago. It was the third shutout against Nashville this season.
That left the Predators with seven points through their first 10 games (3-6-1), which was one more than their worst record ever at that point of the season. In 2002-03, they had six points and a 1-5-1-3 mark.
At the same juncture of last season, Nashville had 35 goals and a 5-4-1 record (11 points) and had gotten consistent offensive contributions from its defensemen.
Six different players at that position had scored at least once and in eight of the first 10 games — none of them shutouts — at least one of the goals came from a player in the back.
Ten games into this season, only three defensemen — Weber, Suter and Franson — have found the back of the net. Weber’s goal against Washington on Oct. 17 was the only other time the Predators got a goal from the back line.
Through Saturday, Calgary’s Dion Phaneuf led all NHL defensemen with five goals of his own in 10 games, which was one fewer than Nashville’s entire defense corps.
“With our team, we need contributions right through the lineup,” Trotz said. “Some teams don’t need as much from the back end … because they have lots of people up front who can contribute.
“With us, we’re a little more even that way.”
The Predators are back in action Wednesday at Minnesota (7 p.m., no television).
The Wild have just three goals from their defense in 10 games and are 3-7-0, which makes them the only Western Conference team with fewer points than Nashville.