The LA Kings are one of the best at smothering other team’s offenses. The Nashville Predators overcame it through good chances and a bit of luck.
Everyone knows that Jonathan Quick is one of the NHL’s elite netminders, but he’s not perfect. His strengths is his athleticism and ability to challenge the shooter and take away angles. The Nashville Predators took advantage of his shortcomings by moving the puck laterally across the ice and making Quick move. Quick may be one of the best goaltenders at traversing the crease, but no one’s good enough to come across so many times. The best example was the first Watson goal after P.K. Subban passed across the ice to the slot for a somewhat easy goal.
Saturday night saw the Predators once again get beaten in the shot and possession category, but not in scoring chances. While the Predators have boasted one of the best offenses for the past few months, they’ve only been able to generate these chances consistently ever since the new year. This was one of the big keys to winning against the defensively stout Kings. Let’s look at the other ways the Predators neutralized the Kings.
Capitalizing at five on five
From above, the shots are scarce. Something that stands out are the shots in front of the net, including two goals. According to naturalstattrick.com, the Nashville Predators had five high danger chances, with two being scored. If you can score on 40% of your high danger chances, then you’re doing great. Especially considering that one goal was an excellent tip through traffic and the other was a great pass and some good timing from Hartnell. The other goal, talked about above, was all due to expert passing and forwards driving the net and taking the attention of the defense.
My only complaint is the missed shots. On a night where you only had 13 shots, missing six will normally cost you. But otherwise, it’s hard to fault a team that had more scoring chances (15 to 10) and the same high danger chances (5 to 5).
Shutting down Kopitar
Anze Kopitar has reclaimed his place among the elite two way forwards after a down year in 2016-17. He’s been on fire this year but he was kept to a secondary assist on a power-play goal against the Predators This might be a little misleading though, as it was mainly Pekka Rinne who kept Kopitar to almost nothing.
If you look above, Kopitar basically ran free as the Kings had four shots from within 10 feet of the net. The good news is that the Predators made the Kings pay with Kopitar on the ice, as they had three shots in close as well as a goal. When you shut down Kopitar, you shut down the majority of the Kings’ offense.
Depth comes in clutch
Depth scoring has been an issue for the Nashville Predators since day one, but that issue might be over. Salomaki-Jarnkrok-Watson has been a revelation since being put together as they successfully smothered the smotherers. The trio played six minutes together and beaten in Corsi with three for and six against. That’s pretty bad but they more than made up for it with their Fenwick as they had three for and two against. That means that they blocked four shot attempts that the Kings generated. On top of that, they also were responsible for two goals for and none against.
Their forechecking left the Kings defense befuddled constantly while their defense stymied the first, second, and third lines. They scored a goal and didn’t allow any high danger chances despite starting in the defensive zone 85.17% of the time. I really hope they stay together.
Can the Nashville Predators keep it up?
That’s the best part, yes they can! These aren’t incredibly difficult things, especially getting high danger opportunities since the Kings are great at shutting down the slot. Let’s see if the Predators can continue to capitalize and turn these chances into goals. If they can, they’re going to turn a lot of games into wins.