I never thought I would say this, but Yannick Weber was the best defenseman on the Nashville Predators. He made the Maple Leafs look downright silly.
So often fans see Pekka Rinne hold the Nashville Predators in games as they seemingly try to lose. But the visitors dominated possession and scoring chances against one of the top teams in the East. In fact, the Predators had a 60.87% Fenwick, 45 scoring chances, 18 high danger chances, and two goals at even strength. The Maple Leafs lost the battle in terms of quantity and quality, but emerged victorious due to the worst gimmick in hockey.
While the Predators had an awesome game, and the best third period of their season, there’s one player that deserves recognition. It’s not P.K. Subban, or Viktor Arvidsson, or any of the big names, it’s good ol’ Yannick Weber. No one saw it coming, certainly not me, but it happened. We should all take a moment to recognize when a player has the game of his life.
Weber is not exactly known as a good player. He doesn’t drive possession, he doesn’t suppress shots, and he doesn’t really put up points. Let’s take a look at some of the numbers by Weber so far this season. For reference, I’m using unblocked shot attempts (Fenwick), scoring chance ratio (SC%), high danger chance ratio (HDC%), and offensive zone start percentage. All stats are at even strength.
Just from the numbers, things are not good. Obviously, you want above a 50% in the first three categories, but those stats look even worse when his zone starts come to light. 55% is some heavy sheltering under any circumstances, but it’s borderline unacceptable when you know that the Predators are sacrificing P.K. Subban’s zone starts to do so. I don’t think it’s outlandish to say that Weber has not had a good season by the numbers. But the game isn’t played on the spreadsheet, so let’s check out the heatmaps.
Weber is a defenseman, so let’s check out how he is in the d-zone. Remember, the red is bad and blue is good. What I see above is a lot of red. Now, not all of it is Weber’s fault, like the point areas, where that’s more due to bad winger coverage. The area that is Weber’s fault is the high danger area (that red area around the net). Weber has a tough time breaking the puck out and is especially susceptible in the corners. The only hope that the third pair has of clearing the zone is if the opposition doesn’t apply pressure.
Ok, that’s enough of the bad. This is an article celebrating Weber, so let’s start doing that.
Against the Maple Leafs
As I said in the introduction, the Nashville Predators had a great game. Instead of being a passenger of this success, Weber was instead a possession driver. His play was a blessing and Peter Laviolette couldn’t get him on the ice fast enough. Let’s take a look at some of the facts. All numbers are at even strength.
What you see above is akin to the Mona Lisa, or The Last Supper. It’s a masterpiece and a wonderful game. The percentages don’t even do it justice in my opinion, and so we’ll go through some of the numbers. When Weber was on the ice, the Predators controlled 80% of the scoring chances, which translates to 16 chances for and only 4 against. He did this despite absolutely no zone sheltering and not much competition sheltering in general. He spent 8 of his 13 minutes at even strength against the Auston Matthews line and Mitch Marner line.
All of those fun little stats aside, let’s talk about the most important one, high danger chances. High danger chances are the most important thing in a game, quality chances will always deliver more over a high quantity of chances. I would even go as far to say 1 high danger chance is worth 4 normal scoring chances. The Nashville Predators are the 25th best team in the NHL at creating high danger chances. So to see the visitors create 18 in one game at even strength is truly surprising. I think it’s a trend we’ll see continue. But enough about trends, here’s the craziest stat of the night. Weber was on the ice for 9 of the 18 high danger chances created by the Predators. LITERALLY HALF OF THE OVERALL CHANCES!!!!
All Swedish, no finish
I know that Weber is actually Swiss, but the pun is too good. Despite these great numbers, Weber wasn’t on the ice for any goals, for or against. You can have all the chances in the world, but it doesn’t matter if you can’t finish. That said, I don’t think this because of Weber’s shortcomings. Frederick Andersen had a Vezina quality game and this game could’ve been a blowout for the Predators.
This probably isn’t a sign of things to come from Weber, but it was nice while it lasted. Everyone deserves their moment in the sun, and Weber deserves his despite a shootout loss.