Nashville Predators: Jarnkrok Vs Neal After First Match-Up

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

A familiar face returned to take on the Nashville Predators. James Neal’s arrival brought up old questions about the expansion draft and who was exposed.

The months-old question of who should’ve been exposed in the expansion draft may have died down. But Friday’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights may have re-opened some ignored old wounds. Everyone remembers that the Nashville Predators elected to protect center Calle Jarnkrok over winger James Neal. There were many factors involved, including points, possession metrics, position, and contract length and worth.

There are two different sides of the argument, with Neal truthers and Jarnkrok justifiers. Both have valid points and are probably right in some capacity. But now we have their numbers against each other, so let’s dive in.

If you have any questions about the statistics I use, feel free to reference this article.

Neal’s numbers

Neal played about 12 minutes at five on five as he scored the lone Knights even-strength goal. He recorded six shots and did draw a key penalty. Neal played the majority of his ice time with David Perron and Erik Haula, while Shea Theodore and Colin Miller held down the back end. He was mostly met with P.K. Subban, Alexei Emelin, and the Turris line.

At five on five, Neal owned a Corsi of 54.17% and a Fenwick of 47.37%. Neal was on the ice for one goal for but suffered two goals against. Scoring chances were more of the same as Vegas produced six but gave up seven when Neal was on the ice. The good news for Neal was that he produced two high danger chances to one. Naturally, Neal was as sheltered as ever as he started in the offensive zone 62.50% of the time.

From the chart above, we can see that Neal was was good in the offensive zone, as expected. Six of the eight shots came from Neal including the goal, which is marked in red. The defensive zone is a different story. Neal played right wing and you can tell just from the chart that he was responsible for at least two of the shots that were given up. Erik Haula and the defense is more to blame for the two goals, so Neal gets a pass. Still though, that right side was heavily picked on which leads me to believe that Neal was pressuring the D too heavily or not coming deep enough to help.

Jarnkrok’s stats

Jarnkrok, much like Neal, played about 12 minutes at five on five and scored a big goal. He also had two shots and a high danger scoring chance. Jarnkrok centered Filip Forsberg and Pontus Aberg, and played the majority of the game with Mattias Ekholm and Roman Josi. He mostly went up against the Karlsson line as well as Nate Schmidt and Luca Sbisa.

Jarnkrok had the average Corsi of 50% and a Fenwick of 54.17%. It was the exact opposite of Neal, who had a good Corsi, but a less than average Fenwick. Jarnkrok scored a goal and didn’t give up any. His scoring chances reflect that as he was on the ice for seven scoring chances and gave up seven. The best example of Jarnkrok’s suppression was that he didn’t give up a single high danger chance. Although, he was the beneficiary of some padded zone deployment as he started in the offensive zone 60% of the time. That’s an unusual amount for Jarnkrok as he normally plays in a defensive role, but Peter Laviolette doesn’t want to squander Forsberg’s offensive talent.

This chart doesn’t look much better than Neal’s, especially in the offensive zone. The Nashville Predators could only manage shots from the outside except for Jarnkrok’s goal, which came from a high danger area. Forsberg wasn’t able to really get things going and the chart shows it. The defensive zone is where Jarnkrok shined. He didn’t get much help from Aberg who gave up quite a bit on the right side. Jarnkrok did a great job of keeping the slot clear.

Who won?

Each forward played their game well and did their job. I’d probably give this to Jarnkrok on grounds that he scored as much Neal and gave up fewer goals, had more scoring chances for and the same amount of chances against, as well as better possession scores in general. I guess the real winner is the Vegas Golden Knights, as they stole two points. But in terms of individual performances, Jarnkrok was the superior players on Friday night.

Next: Subban Shines Against Knights