Nashville Predators: Analytically Speaking, Last Night Was A Disaster

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 5: Charlie McAvoy
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 5: Charlie McAvoy /

When analyzing hockey performances, it often helps to employ advanced metrics. Using last night’s Nashville Predators, I present the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Nashville Predators went into Boston last night ready to start their season off in a dominant fashion. Or, at least, that’s what they said before the game. In fact, Peter Laviolette’s pregame thoughts echoed that exactly:

"“Our group is going to have to go out and fight for every game and every opportunity that they get to be successful. We’re going to have to grow something internally like we did last year, and I think there’s confidence that those guys can do it, but what happened last year, what happens the year after this one, really all that matters is what happens this year. Our guys are ready to play. Our guys will be ready.”"

In reference to the final two sentences, I respectfully disagree.

The good

In what will be the shortest segment of this article, I will concede that there were a few Predators who managed a decent game in Boston. Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg, and Ryan Johansen each played reasonably well. The Predators produced over 60% of the even-strength shots on goal while they were on the ice. Forsberg and Arvidsson each tallied a goal as well. Pekka Rinne wasn’t too bad either, stopping 28 out of 31 shots he faced.

The bad

This group includes – count ’em – six players. Interestingly, they are mostly forwards. Mattias Ekholm was largely ineffective. Kevin Fiala was unable to employ his lightning speed and talent, he failed to produce a single shot on goal at even strength. Craig Smith did manage one shot on goal, but his line allowed ten against. Calle Jarnkrok, Colton Sissons, Nick Bonino… bad, bad, bad.

Fenwick is a useful statistic here. The number of unblocked shots on goal (SOG) a player’s team takes while he is on the ice, compared to those conceded, produces an individual’s Fenwick score. The higher the percentage, the better the player’s performance. I’m only using 5-on-5 statistics in the following table (trust me, be glad I’m not including special teams). Here’s how “the bad” looked:

PlayerEV TOI*SOG forSOG againstFenwick %
Mattias Ekholm14:4391439.13
Kevin Fiala10:423537.50
Craig Smith10:3051033.33
Calle Jarnkrok8:512528.57
Colton Sissons10:2841323.53
Nick Bonino9:092722.22

*Time on ice at even strength

Considering an average Fenwick at even strength should be around 50%, these numbers are really bad indeed. Hold onto your seats though; it gets worse.

The ugly

For the majority of the game, the Nashville Predators simply could not get any offense going. Most of the time, it looked like Boston was on the powerplay. As a whole, the Predators played poorly. However, there were some extreme offenders that are easy to point to. I’m submitting five players in my “ugly” category.

After a white-hot preseason, Miikka Salomaki was almost invisible last night. His line produced two shots and allowed 11. When together, Austin Watson and Cody McLeod‘s line failed to produce a single shot on goal, and allowed five. Defensively, Alexei Emelin and Yannick Weber were very, very bad. It’s not a good look for either guy when you consider up-and-comer Samuel Girard was a healthy scratch.

It’s tough to look at, but here’s how their performances broke down:

PlayerEV TOI*SOG forSOG againstFenwick %
Miikka Salomaki10:0321115.38
Austin Watson6:521910.00
Yannick Weber8:401127.69
Alexei Emelin8:030100.00
Cody McLeod4:52050.00

*Time on ice at even strength

In other words, for the combined 38 minutes and 30 seconds these players were on the ice at even strength, the Nashville Predators produced only four shots and allowed a combined 47.

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The takeaways

To be clear, I’m not extrapolating this information beyond last night’s game. I don’t anticipate the Predators to play like this very often. Whether it was nerves, underestimation of Boston, or just a bumpy flight, the Predators did not look like themselves in Boston.

While the game did not really change my mind about any player, it did confirm a few of my previously-held concerns. Cody McLeod does not offer enough to be a consistent member of this lineup. Austin Watson needs better linemates if he’s going to succeed. Alexei Emelin does not look comfortable. And Yannick Weber needs to step up or risk getting replaced by Girard.

Next: It's Time For Life After Rinne

Hopefully, the Nashville Predators are frustrated enough to bring the heat against an embarrassed Penguins team in Pittsburgh tomorrow night.