Roman Josi is an elite offensive defenseman but he was exposed against the Canucks. The Nashville Predators’ star was weak in his own zone.
No one can argue that Roman Josi isn’t a top fifteen or even top ten defender in the NHL. He’s an offensive dynamo who scores at a higher level than some good forwards. But Josi isn’t perfect. He can be weak on defending the rush and can get caught chasing in his own end. The Canucks game was a prime example, so let’s take a look at some of the numbers.
Because I’m technologically dumb, I couldn’t separate the photo you see above. So we’re going to go down the chart and talk about everything as we look at it.
Josi finished the game with a 44% Corsi and a 48.28% Fenwick at even strength. Below average numbers by any means, but the other numbers paint a better picture.
Josi was on the ice for three goals against and only one for. A lot of this comes from deployment. Josi started in the offensive zone 47.06% of the time, a few points under his average. Not only did Josi not get sheltered zone starts, but his competition was rough.
The Canucks first line of Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser, and Nikolay Goldobin saw Josi staring them down for the majority of the game. That line combined for a 71.66% Corsi while Josi was on the ice, and it was apparent that Josi couldn’t handle the young speedy trio. Not even Mattias Ekholm could bail Josi out during their 22 minutes together.
Shots shots shots shots shots shots shots
Via Natural Stat Trick, Josi was on the ice for seven high danger chances against at five on five, that number steps up to eight in all situations. Let’s take a deeper look into where the shots were coming from against Josi. I count eight shots within five feet of the net, with two being goals.
The net-front was a free-for-all that Pekka Rinne had a hard time controlling. A goalie is expected to make the first save, but it’s a defenders job to prevent a second and third shot from flying at the goalie. The six other shots cannot be blamed on Josi or Ekholm, as the ones from the point are on the wings, and the one from the corner is a success for a defenseman. Shots from the corners are as dangerous as a corgi with no teeth.
As I’ve said, Josi is an elite offensive defenseman. But the game against the Canucks did something to him. His weak defensive play alongside starting the majority of his zone starts in the defensive zone hurt his offensive game as he wasn’t able to find his groove. From the chart below, we can see that Josi was responsible for two unblocked shots, both from low danger chances. One hit and the other missed, but it’s not too important. Josi is one of the top shot generating defenseman in the NHL and to see him only generate about two shots at five on five is low for him.
If you look, most of the defense had a tough time getting shots off, let alone actually hitting the net. Even though Josi had a tough game, things are not bleak. The solutions are easy.
You… you got what I neeeeeeeed
Josi needs one of two things from the Nashville Predators, and the good news is both are fairly easily obtainable. He needs either a shot suppressing partner or zone/opponent sheltering. Mattias Ekholm is a top three defensive defenseman in the NHL and has covered a lot of mistakes Josi has made in his own end. But he’s not perfect and so we got to see Josi when he has to do some heavy defensive lifting.
The other option, zone/opponent sheltering, is probably the easiest path, especially as Ryan Ellis returns. In the Canucks game, Josi had zero protection under Peter Laviolette, who seemingly decided to give P.K. Subban and Alexei Emelin a night off from top-line competition. Once Ellis returns, expect to see him and Josi start in the offensive zone a little over 50% of the time, while Ekholm and Subban make up an elite shutdown line.
With all of these criticisms, I want to reiterate how wonderful I think Josi is. He’s a magnificent offensive defenseman as well as one of the best breakout quarterbacks in the NHL. But he’s not perfect, and the slip-ups he made against the Canucks show how bad he can be if not put in a beneficial situation. Expect Josi and Ekholm to return to a little above 50% offensive zone starts as a group or they’ll take on lesser talent.