There is no doubting the importance of the JoFA line for the Nashville Predators. Now they are without three key players. How long? Who knows.
Two points! On the back of Juuse Saros and his shutout, the Nashville Predators earned crucial points against a major player in the Western Conference. And they completed the task without Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson. Then, they lost Ryan Johansen during the game. All three players of the team’s fearsome front-line are out.
Right now, we do not know the severity of the injury to Arvidsson or if Johansen will have lingering cobwebs after the hit he took last night.
Let me address this part real quick. William Carrier hit Johansen in the chin with his shoulder, knocking him into the glass. THERE. WAS. NO. CALL. Johansen did not return to the ice after this hit.
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Dear NHL Player Safety: If this does not call for some discipline, I do not know what does. I am not upset because it is a Predators’ player, but because you placed importance in making these call and it was not called. Had Alexei Emelin does this to a player on Vegas, I would say the same thing.
Forsberg is out a couple more weeks. Arvidsson was placed on Injured Reserve, meaning he is out at least seven days from the date of the injury. He was able to skate yesterday morning with the team. As for Johansen, we do not know if he will miss time.
No JoFA, no problem?
How long can a team do without its top line and succeed? The Nashville Predators have been treading water since Forsberg’s injury, even though they are 4-1-1 in that time. The team just lacks a forceful offensive presence is obvious. Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson have been effective, but not as they were in 2016-17.
No, it is not ideal for the Predators to be missing the JoFA line, but it may be just what they need right now. Leaning on players like Kevin Fiala, Kyle Turris, and Nick Bonino will only strengthen their performance. The line with Fiala, Turris, and Craig Smith lead the team in offensive zone starts. While in part to the defensive liability they may well be, pushing them forward should provide them more scoring chances.
There is no doubt the team has players. Colton Sissons played well last night, gaining four high danger chances while on the ice. A quick move by Marc-Andre Fleury saved a sure-goal at the doorstep of the net. But Sissons is only being deployed in the offensive zone 33% of the time. Last night, he made 47% of his starts in the offensive zone and finished the game with a Relative CorsiFor of 31.7%. He was forward and aggressive. And earned an assist.
The same could be said about Calle Jarnkrok. On the season, his 40.4 offensive zone start percentage is seventh worst on the team. That doesn’t sound horrible (especially considering Bonino is the worst at 30.2%), but for a scoring threat, he needs to be given chances. Against Vegas, he was on the line with Johansen and Sissons, making 61.5% of his starts in the offensive zone. The Predators managed four high-danger chances and a 17 to 9 shot differential over Vegas.
Who steps up?
Kyle Turris needs to show he can lead a line on 5v5 play. Three of his five goals are on the power play, as are eight of his assists. But, generating less than two shots per game if not ideal for a second-line center. With a speedy Fiala and crafty Craig Smith, any chances and rebounds Turris generates will benefit the team.
But, my eye is on Nick Bonino. I carried the banner of Bonino starting the season. Having a two-time champion on the team could bring experience and grit the Predators lacked. Honestly, I am disappointed in how he is being used. He is starting in the defensive zone 13% higher than any year in his career. A player who can achieve 30 or more points is on pace for 16. He is getting only 1.25 shots per game.
It will take the entire team, but the Nashville Predators have the players to fill in the gaps while the JoFA line is out. Their mostly-favorable schedule coming up should help.