Centers are often the focal point of forward lines, distributing the puck to the wings. But, the Nashville Predators are using three centers on one line.
Hockey is here. The Nashville Predators first game of the 2018-19 season is tonight against the New York Rangers. As expected much of the line-up will resemble what we witnessed last season. After the morning skate, Brooks Bratten shed some light on what the line-up would look like.
All is well on the top two lines. JoFA remains intact and so does Kyle Turris, Craig Smith, and Kevin Fiala. The fourth line grit has a lot of promise. Additionally, Ryan Hartman could be activated before the game tonight. But where the third line appears familiar, it’s not one we’ve seen too much of.
Line of Centers
In 56 games last year, the line of Calle Jarnkrok, Nick Bonino, and Colton Sissons shared the ice for only 51 minutes. The natural position of each player is Center, so it makes sense why they might not line up together. Digging into the analytics of this line from last year, we see some concerns but a few high-notes too. The biggest question is can they find balance in both scoring and defense?
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Natural Stat Trick’s line tool comparison of Bonino, Jarnkrok, and Sissons showed their CorsiFor and FenwickFor percentages were right at 56%. Anything above 50% means puck possession and shots were in their favor. So that’s fine and dandy. Looking more closely though, if you remove one player from the equation those percentages don’t come close to matching that 56%. The three players are much better together when they are in control of the puck.
But what causes concern are the scoring chances. While this line had four more scoring chances than their opposition, the Goals For % and the High Danger Chances For % were split even. They gave up as many goals and high danger chances as they created. That simply won’t cut it. Defense needs to improve to cause some separation in those numbers. More chances need to be generated and less given up.
In my mind, it’s possible – since this line is composed of Centers – their style of play might not mesh well. They all have the same mindset on how to play the puck, where if there was a natural winger on the line there might be a different attitude. But back to the analytics, what jumps off the page is when Jarnkrok and Sissons played without Bonino they had a staggering Goals For % of 85%. The scoring potential is there, so it makes sense for Bonino to be the primary center of the line.
If anything ties together the play of Nick Bonino, Calle Jarnkrok, and Colton Sissons as individual skaters, it’s that they are very consistent. That benefits the Nashville Predators as far as what to expect. Both Jarnkrok and Sissons have improved their point total every year with the team. You can also bank on Bonino scoring roughly 30 points in a season. Both Bonino and Jarnkrok sport shot percentages in the double-digits so you’ll see some timely scoring from them.
As the projected third line, there is much to like. I believe each skater will cross the 30 point mark. The scoring threat is there, but the Predators won’t be relying on them in times of need. Their defense is just as important as their scoring. With only a small sample last year, it’s concerning to see an equal amount of chances given up as there are created. They’ll need to find a nice balance between scoring and defending. The third line will be key to the Nashville Predators success. Bonino has veteran experience and knows what it takes to win. Both Jarnkrok and Sissons know the Predators’ way.
Our first glimpse of the third line is tonight. Puck drop is slated for 6:30 Central with broadcast on NBCSN. Here’s to chanting “Go Preds” for another season of hockey!