Nashville Predators: Analytical Argument To Separate Bonino and Jarnkrok

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 14: Nick Bonino /

The Nashville Predators are hotter than the sun with nine wins in ten games, but all is not perfect. The new third line isn’t performing up to expectations.

I have written a few times about Peter Laviolette overusing his line blender, but now he insists on sticking to something that doesn’t work. Bonino and Jarnkrok have played about 37 minutes together at five on five over the last four games while registering about 10 minutes apart. To put it bluntly, this duo is like pizza and salmon. Both delicious in their own right, but when together it’s an unmitigated disaster. The unmitigated disaster part may be a bit exaggerated but you get my point. Jarnkrok and Bonino do not go well together.

Jarnkrok is a player who thrives in a shutdown role against top-six talent. He may go on scoring streaks, but his usual lack of scoring is because he’s trying to prevent high danger chances. Bonino is quite the opposite. The famed center of the HBK line in Pittsburgh is an offensively minded guy who can play defense, but not at the level Jarnkrok can. I’m not trying to say one is worse than the other, but they’re not right for each other. The analytics prove it.

The analytics

In four games, the duo owns a five on five Corsi of 46.15 and Fenwick of 45.65. Not terrible when considering that they’re starting in the offensive zone 32.14% of the time. But this isn’t the role for Bonino, he wasn’t brought in to suppress shots. The area where I see the biggest shortcomings from the duo is their high danger chances for and against.

To start off in a broad category, the pair has given up 20 scoring chances and only produced 10 of their own. It gets worse when we look at the high danger chances though. The duo has given up six high danger chances against in four games while only generating four.  I think this comes down to that Bonino can’t properly produce offense when he’s hampered with a defensively minded winger like Jarnkrok. While Jarnkrok can’t really support defenders in front of the net when he’s covering the point.

It doesn’t help that Pontus Aberg has been supporting Bonino and Jarnkrok over the last two games. I have actually liked his hustle more since he came back from Milwaukee, but like Bonino, Aberg is all about offense. Not to call Aberg weak in his own end, but compared to even Bonino, he might as well head for a line change.

The good and the bad

The good news is that line is stalemated at five on five with one goal for and one goal against. Both of which came from high danger areas, so it’s kind of a wash. The bad news is that while in theory, this line should be great, they aren’t on the ice. In my opinion, this is Laviolette trying to create a “perfect line”. A line with two offensively minded guys and one shut down forward. But it’s not working and the Nashville Predators need to learn from their mistakes.

The third line

My advice from day one has been to commit. No matter what you’re doing with your life, commit to it. The Nashville Predators need to commit to a shutdown line and a scoring line in the bottom six. Trying to spread the love has just watered down what they’re trying to accomplish.

My third line would be Salomaki-Jarnkrok-Watson. I wrote a piece a while back discussing how good Salomaki and Jarnkrok were together at suppressing shots. Together they own a five on five Corsi of 51.09 and a Fenwick of 49.48 even though they played against second line talent and started in the offensive zone 37.5% of the time. All three together don’t have great stats together but there’s a huge caveat. Out of their nine minutes together, none of those have come outside the final two minutes of a game. This is the line that Laviolette trusts to shut down the opposition when it matters most.

Using this line to nullify a team’s second line will allow the Turris line to continue to pick on third line talent. This shutdown line would take heavy hits, post negative possession scores, and probably not score much, but they’d be vital to the Nashville Predators’ success.

The fourth line

My fourth line would be Aberg-Bonino-Sissons with Gaudreau and Aberg switching out as needed. I really like Gaudreau as a two-way guy, but I’m not ready to commit him to a full-time position.

Bonino and Sissons don’t have a large enough sample size to accurately judge their play, but I still will anyway. In 28 minutes over 10 games, they have a 50.88 Corsi and 53.49 Fenwick, but they’ve been atrocious in their own end. They’ve given up 10 high danger chances against and three goals. What’s worse is that Laviolette thrust them into that position by starting them in the offensive zone only 14.29% of the time. Once again, the sample size is way too small, but the numbers are pretty split on them.

The lineup

In my opinion, here’s how you go about your line match-ups, at home obvious where you can control them. JoFA vs first, Jarnkrok vs second, Turris vs third, Bonino vs fourth. I trust that Bonino line to beat opposing bottom six talent into submission, especially if they receive heavy sheltering.

Next: Filip Forsberg: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

I still can’t figure out why Laviolette won’t break up the third line but hopefully, he will soon.