It’s certainly been an interesting season to this point, hasn’t it? Given the injury rate this season, I’m sure that I will develop carpal tunnel before this season is out and miss a few games myself.
- You have to start with all of the injuries. It began with Matthew Lombardi suffering a concussion in the second game of the season and has spread like crazy amongst nearly the rest of the team. According the Predator’s website, Nashville has endured 131 man-games lost due to injury or illness in the first 41 games. Those injuries have been to their starting goaltender and to 2/3 of their opening night top nine.
- For being a major offseason priority, the power play is batting a woeful 15.0% (ranking 25th). One could point to the injuries sustained by the club, but since the coaching staff won’t trot out excuses, I won’t either. Besides, the combination of Suter, Kostitsyn, Hornqvist, Wilson, Franson, and Weber have only missed a combined 18 games (with some overlap)- of which 11 were by Suter alone (more on that below).
- Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the team can’t seem to lose less than two games in a row- or win less than two in a row for that matter. As in many prior seasons, this team streaks in both directions to an extreme degree. To me, this shows that the team is not yet ready to make that step to the next level.
- Here again, you have to start with the injuries- or more how the team has coped with the injuries in a way that has allowed them to accumulate 50 points through the first half of the season. That’s not quite on pace for the 108 points I predicted, but I won’t hold it against them.
- The penalty kill has returned to its former glory with a 85.4% kill rate (ranking 5th). There are many players that contribute to this but it really starts with Nick Spaling, David Legwand, Kevin Klein and the goaltending tandem of Pekka Rinne and Anders Lindback- and great work by the coaching staff.
- Speaking of Anders Lindback, you can’t ask any better of a rookie that’s been thrown in the fire like he has. Incredible, incredible job.
- Speaking of Kevin Klein, he is doing a pretty good job of filling the third defenseman position. While he still makes his share of mistakes, he’s done an admirable job of filling the role of Dan Hamhuis in Nashville (for a rate much better than Nashville would have had to pay Hammer). One has to think that Trotz and Poile are both pleased with how Klein has stepped up overall.
- A major plus must be handed out to the combination of David Poile, Barry Trotz and Sergei Kostitsyn. David and Barry decided to take the risk and Kostitsyn is repaying that opportunity by playing great hockey and earning his ice time. It will be interesting to see how Barry handles veterans returning to good health with the play of Kostitsyn as well as Colin Wilson.
- My final plus goes to the power play. Gasp! More specifically, I want to recognize the efforts of the power play beginning with the 12/28 game against Dallas. That was the first game that saw a unit of Patric Hornqvist, Colin Wilson, Sergei Kostitsyn, Ryan Suter and either Cody Franson or Shea Weber (most often) hit the ice together (told you I’d get back to them). In that time span (six games), Nashville has converted on 4 of 15 power play opportunities. That’s a 26.7% conversion rate. Notably, all four of the goals have come from that unit. Another notable difference? Weber is playing the far left point with Suter quarterbacking from the middle (umbrella). Those positions should allow both to make quicker decisions with the puck whether it’s to shoot or pass- and it’s opposite of where they typically line up. In fact, with Kostitsyn playing the far right point, Wilson playing the right-front net position and Hornqvist the left-front net position, every player on the ice is the best position to make a quick decision (from a shot-hand perspective). I have two questions. First, what took so long to ice this combination? Secondly, what happens when Erat and Sullivan return?
Well, what can the average Predator fan expect for the second half of the season? Probably more ups and downs. That said, if this team can start getting healthy and can keep the recent power play results going (even if it’s at a rate slightly lower than 26.7%) they have a real chance to make some noise in the playoffs this season. It will also be interesting to watch how David Poile handles potential season-ending injuries to Matthew Lombardi and Cal O’Reilly.
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About the Author: Nashville Predators Blogger, Software Engineer (C#.NET), Novice Woodworker, Southern Cook, Husband, Father of Two. You may contact me at David.R.Singleton AT gmail.com.