A win is a win, and the Nashville Predators earned a victory over Minnesota last night. Here is what we learned from the triumph over the Wild.
The opening home-stand of the season is now complete, and it should be considered a success. Any time a team goes 3-1-0 during any stretch, it is a good thing. Sure, the one blemish on the record for the Nashville Predators was a 3-0 shutout against a team they “should” have defeated. At least, so we think.
Still, when all is said and done, the Predators sit atop the Central Division and Western Conference. They have the best goal differential in the conference, scoring the second most goals among the 15 teams. The Predators are performing extremely well overall. Each game you can’t but help believe they are in it till the end. It is an energy and effort which will help them contend for the Stanley Cup this season.
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In regards to the victory over the Wild, it was the combination of defense and special teams leading to success. The Predators notched their second power-play goal of the season as Craig Smith pounced on a rebound from P.K. Subban‘s shot. While the power play took 11 shots, it was the penalty kill allowing only 3 shots that held Minnesota at bay. The Wild were able to get a goal on their power play, but they had four chances.
What we learned
Defense turns to offense quickly for the Nashville Predators. How many times this season have we witnessed a player steal the puck and move it into the offensive zone quickly? And score? Several times already. Last night, it was Kyle Turris and Filip Forsberg. Turris intercepted a pass in the defensive zone and immediately found Forsberg in the neutral zone. A few seconds later, the puck was in the net. The organized-chaos that is the Predators’ philosophy certainly shows its benefit with plays like these.
However, there is a drawback. Because the Predators scrum for the puck so often, it can leave a player uncovered. Case and point, the goal by Mikko Koivu last night. While Turris and Subban battled for the puck behind Pekka Rinne, Mikael Granlund and Koivu were left open on the other side. Mattias Ekholm and teammates didn’t switch to cover. Granted, had they left their position, other players would be open.
When watching the play, Subban was trying to gain the puck and Turris came done to take over. Grunland, who Subban was defending broke to the front of the net when Turris came down. Subban was knocked to the ice, and the puck went to the net. It is difficult to complain about this action, but it is another example of a defensive lapse. Had Subban stayed on his feet and on his man, the goal may not occur.
Does anyone miss Alexei Emelin? Didn’t think so. Dan Hamhuis is certainly playing better than we could have hoped. Last night, Hamhuis ended the evening with a CorsiFor of 78.57%, while Yannick Weber had 84.62%. The duo spent most of their time against Eric Fehr, Marcus Foligno, and Nick Seeler, but held positive Corsi and Fenwick numbers against all Wild players.
While their season numbers are not this extreme, the fact the third defensive pair has yet to allow a goal this season is interesting. Hamhuis’s relative expected goals against percentage is -9.1%. For reference, Emelin finished last year with a -5.77 Rel xGF% last season, allowing 31 goals on his watch. So far, Hamhuis and Weber are a solid pair.