With precious points on the line, the roster depth of the Nashville Predators pushed the team to a comeback win over Edmonton.
Few regular season games hold the importance witnessed last night. Wayne Gretzky and Gary Bettman’s attendance prove such a statement. While the opponent was not one the Nashville Predators will see in the playoffs, victory over the Edmonton Oilers meant more than just another two points. Winning game number 63 pulled the Predators even with the Vegas Golden Knights in games but ahead in points. It pushed the lead in the Central Division to six points. All valid reasons.
But, there are two other reasons the win was important. First, it establishes David Poile as the winningest General Manager in the history of the NHL. And, it showed the depth of the Predators will be a nightmare for future opponents.
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The game unfolded like many others in recent weeks. The Oilers took a two-goal lead in the first period due to series of unfortunate events. The first goal was scored by Connor McDavid after a scramble. The puck was lofted in the air, found the ice in a mass of humanity, and made its way to McDavid. Pekka Rinne has no chance. Of course, one could argue McDavid should have been called for a penalty just moments before.
Leon Draisaiti blasted a feed pass Rinne on the power-play just moments later. The goal came after Milan Lucic plastered Calle Jarnkrok’s head to the wall. No call was made on the hit and the Oilers led 2-0 after one period.
Depth steps up
The first goal for the Predators came off the stick of Scott Hartnell. It was set up by great passing from Jarnkrok and Nick Bonino. Viktor Arvidsson tallied the next two goals, but assisted by Filip Forsberg. And the backbreaker was Austin Watson‘s goal. But that is not the full story.
Most teams utilize two different lines on the power play. Coach Peter Laviolette deployed all but three players on the power play last night. The only forward not used was Watson. Ryan Hartman played only 52 seconds on the power play, but everyone else accumulated significant time. While the third line did not earn shots on goal, the depth is there to use in the man advantage.
Additionally, the fourth line of Watson-Sisson-Hartman gained six quality scoring chances, including four high-danger chances. They allowed one such opportunity to the Oilers. The line finished the game with a CorsiFor of 80 percent. The JoFA line may have two goals to their credit last night, but they allowed more shots and chances to the Oilers than the fourth line. Both lines faced McDavid’s line, though the JoFA line saw a bit more time against the Oilers’ top line.
The third line of Hartnell-Bonino-Jarnkrok has been lights out of late. Last night, the trio earned four high-danger chances and 64% shot share. For the season, the Predators’ third line has 11 combine goals when on the ice together. All 11 goals come from high danger opportunities. Their combined season CorsiFor is 57.8%. This is the type of play you want to see from your third line.
Put their full stats together and you see solid play. Currently, the trio has 74 points on the year, including 36 goals. Each ranks in the top four on the team in shooting percentage. They have a 72-57 ratio of takeaways to giveaways.
Depth is a luxury the Nashville Predators hold this year. Each forward line has the potential of slotting a 20-goal scorer. Add this to the defensive pairings the Predators deploy and you have a lethal team.