Nashville Predators: Individual Performances Dominated Colorado

(Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Last night produced the Nashville Predators’ most dominant game so far. For many Predators players, it was their best performance since the playoffs.

Writing analytic pieces about individual performances lends itself to a “good/bad/ugly” type of summary. Fortunately though, there was no truly “ugly” group in last night’s home victory against the Avalanche. It’s more accurate to divide Nashville Predators players into two groups: “great” and “not so great.”

Without further ado, let’s look at some numbers.

The great

First of all, the Predators were successful in spreading the wealth last night. Seven players recorded at least a point, and four players had multi-point games. More impressively, however, was the Predators’ puck possession and shot production. At even strength, more than half the team had above league-average shot production. When special teams are taken into account, the list of those players increases substantially.

A good descriptor of last night’s performance is each individual’s Fenwick score. It’s easy to calculate. First, take the number of unblocked shots the Predators produced while a player was on the ice (FF). Then take that number for shots by the Avalanche (FA). The ratio produces a Fenwick percentage; the higher the number, the better the individual’s impact on possession.

Using Fenwick as a measure of even-strength shot percentage, here’s the “greats” of last night:

PlayerEV TOI*FFFA Fenwick %
Alexei Emelin14:5113476.47
Kevin Fiala13:3013572.22
Craig Smith13:3314670.00
P.K. Subban15:1316769.57

*time on ice at even strength

Driving the team

In reality, this group could have included about five or six more players, but I had to cut it off at around 70% or higher. Alexei Emelin actually looked pretty slow on defense, to be honest, but the numbers don’t lie. He was effective at suppressing opposing shots and contributed offensively as well. By a long way, it was Emelin’s best game as a Nashville Predator so far.

Kevin Fiala has had a slow start and actually recorded his first shot on goal of the season last night. While the speedy Swiss winger has struggled in producing his own shots, he has supported shot production for Nashville effectively. In other words, he’s setting up situations that produce shots, even if he isn’t taking the shots. His performance last night was especially excellent. The Predators produced nearly three times as many shots as the Avalanche when Fiala was on the ice.

Craig Smith put up an assist on Colton Sissons‘ strange goal late in the second period. He had similar numbers to Fiala and was another valuable piece in victory last night. Defensively, the Nashville Predators made very few mistakes. Among the best performers was P.K. Subban, who again played over 25 minutes total in the game. His shot production was, unsurprisingly, dominant. He definitely earned a spot among the greats of last night.

The not-so-great

In this case, I use the above phrase un-ironically. The Predators in this category didn’t have bad games, they just weren’t as dominant as the preceding group. To make a useful comparison, I’m including the exact stats I used above.

Here’s how they looked:

PlayerEV TOI*FFFA Fenwick %
Calle Jarnkrok12:314640.00
Matt Irwin12:5751033.33
Pontus Aberg9:312433.33
Scott Hartnell11:153633.33
Anthony Bitetto13:2241028.57

*time on ice at even strength

Calle Jarnkrok played primarily alongside Aberg and Hartnell, so it’s safe to say that his entire line was bested for most of the night. While his shot production numbers aren’t great, the Avalanche didn’t produce a single “high danger” scoring chance against Jarnkrok. That means the 6 unblocked shots produced by Colorado with Jarnkrok on the ice all came from the outer perimeter of the zone and didn’t challenge Pekka Rinne to a high degree.

Irwin and Bitetto composed the Nashville Predators’ third defensive pairing last night. They allowed 10 shots on goal and produced about half of that. However, they did not allow a goal by the Avalanche, so it’s hard to argue that their defense was bad in any way. Plus, Bitetto was probably distracted from the big win by his New York Yankees (tongue placed firmly in cheek, I assure you).

Scott Hartnell wasn’t terribly impressive last night, but his near-two decades of NHL experience did manifest in this shockingly brazen penalty:

If you’re an Avalanche fan, you were understandably upset by this play. Luckily, Rinne had made the save already, so a simple minor penalty was assessed to Hartnell, and nothing more.

Kickstarting the season

While the Predators are always a great team at home, it’s easy to be hopeful after last night. The Avalanche did manage the first goal, but otherwise presented little danger. The Predators were tight defensively and lightning fast on offense. They created chances and followed through with four goals. It was a performance that, hopefully, will remind players how dominant they can truly be, no matter the opponent.

Next: The Predators' Options After The Bonino Injury

They’ll look to maintain the high intensity as they visit Philadelphia on Thursday night.