One thing has stood out to me over the past few Nashville Predators games. Miikka Salomaki and Calle Jarnkrok can shut high danger forwards down.
I imagine everyone is getting tired of the Calle Jarnkrok fan club we have going on here at Predlines.com. But he doesn’t get a fair shake, mostly due to unfair comparisons to James Neal. I’m not going to get into that because it’s mostly pointless at this time. I’m not interested in what could’ve been, I’m interested in what is for the Nashville Predators.
Well, what is, is that Calle Jarnkrok and Miikka Salomaki are silently becoming one of the best shot suppression duos in the NHL. Their hard work and tenacity on the puck and forecheck leave team’s first lines in disarray. Peter Laviolette obviously trusts this duo to play tough minutes, and I’m curious who they will play with as time goes on. The shutdown role seems like the life that Jarnkrok and Salomaki will live for the rest of the season. And honestly, I’m pretty excited about it.
Jarnkrok and Salomaki playing tough minutes against top six forwards means one thing. That the Turris or Johansen lines can play against weaker competition. It’s basically a gamble, saying that the Jarnkrok line can keep their top six to a smaller score than the Nashville Predators’ top six. To better understand Jarnkrok and Salomaki’s impact, let’s go through each player’s five on five stats.
Salomaki has been an analytics darling so far this year. He owns a 54.85% Corsi and a 52.07% Fenwick through 13 games played. Great numbers in general, although the sample size was fairly small. Salomaki on average plays 12:11 minutes per game and usually on the fourth line, for better or worse.
Salomaki was generally being used in an energy role that was meant to keep the JoFA line out of the defensive zone. He started in the defensive zone 63.75% of the time, not exactly an easy situation to be dropped into. Naturally, Salomaki didn’t produce well, as he scored three points in 11 games.
Nevertheless, Salomaki is a positive player in terms of high danger chances and normal scoring chances. Despite the positive numbers though, he’s scored five goals but given up five against. Not a terrible number but not as great as his possession numbers.
Jarnkrok has been red-hot recently with five points in his last five games. Jarnkrok has been forced into some unfamiliar roles this year. As he’s started on the second line for the majority of the season. Nevertheless, the Swede plays on average 15:42 per game, against top-six competition. Jarnkrok is familiar with top six competition, but he’s not familiar with offensive expectations. He gets his value from goals kept out of the net, not goals he scores.
Jarnkrok owns a Corsi of 44.75% and a Fenwick of 45.02%. Pretty bad to the naked eye, but there are a few pieces of context. He never had any consistent linemates and was consistently playing against top competition. The sad fact is Jarnkrok was pretty much useless before he went on his five-game tear. Although that does sound like a crazy statement, many fans were at his throat because of his impotent offense.
Even in a more offensive role, Laviolette did Jarnkrok no favors as he started in the defensive zone 58.97% of the time. Unlike Salomaki, Jarnkrok is not a positive high danger or scoring chance player. Although, he has scored five goals but has only given up four. So it’s not all negative for Jarnkrok. But now let’s look at the last two games where Jarnkrok and Salomaki have played together.
I want to give a huge shoutout to naturalstattrick.com at this point of the article. I personally give to their Patreon and you should too if you enjoy stats.
The pair has played about 16 minutes together over the past two games. Although they played more consistent minutes against the Capitals, as different players filled in with them against the Penguins. But when the duo has been together, they’ve been magical.
When together, they have a Corsi of 63.33% and a Fenwick of 83.33%. Sky high numbers to the naked eye, but they don’t stop there. They’ve only given up 11 Corsi against which is pretty good, but the real crown jewel is the three Fenwick against. That means that eight of the Corsi against attempts were blocked or suppressed. In that same vein, the duo has only given up four scoring chances and one high danger chance. The best part is that they still have a terrible PDO of 86.7% with a save percentage of 66.67%. If they had reasonable goaltending, this line could be even better!
The line is also producing offensively, although don’t expect that keep up. They’re in the business of keeping goals out of their net, not bolstering their own stats. Over the last two games, the line has produced three goals while only giving up one. But here’s the best part, they’re playing some rough competition. The duo played most of their time against Ovechkin and Kuznetsov, and looked incredible doing it. They posted above 69% Corsi and 63% Fenwick. What more could you want from your third line than keeping Ovechkin and Kuznetsov to almost nothing offensively?
Where to go from here?
Shut off the line blender and let this duo stay together. The two, through a small yet trying sample size, are producing great numbers. One or two last stats, the pair is producing a Corsi per 60 of 74.67 while giving up 43.23. Even better is the Fenwick per 60 of 58.95 and a Fenwick against of 11.79.
This group is an elite puck possession duo and should be respected as such. We’ll see who fits as their third guy. I’m actually a fan of committing to the shutdown role and putting Austin Watson there. Then put Sissons and Aberg or the fourth line and try to turn it into a scoring line. But we don’t know what Peter Laviolette will do for the Nashville Predators lineup.
What we do know is that Jarnkrok and Salomaki have shut down Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, and Evgeny Kuznetsov in two games. The stats point to this being a reasonable expectation of the duo. I just hope the love we’re showing the two continues after Salomaki and Jarnkrok stop scoring so much. The Nashville Predators are a better team for having this duo together.