After blowing a third-period lead for the first time earlier this week, several concerns remain omnipresent for the Nashville Predators of this year. With the loss, however, are deeper offensive concerns starting to show for the Preds as well?
Even with a disappointing loss to the San Jose Sharks a couple of nights ago, the Nashville Predators are still atop most NHL power rankings, amassing a 7-2-0 record so far.
Carrying the load for the Predators, the JoFA line (respectively Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, and Viktor Arvidsson) has illustrated phenomenal chemistry in picking up a combined 28 points through the teams first nine games.
Included in this total, the trio managed to rack up seven points between them against San Jose, ultimately being responsible for each of the Predators four goals on the evening.
Adding to the lines stellar play, they lead the Nashville Predators in virtually every offensive category. Also of note, if you set aside the Calgary shutout, one of the top line players has scored in every game this season.
As individuals, they are off to a fast start. But, as a line, they are even better.
First, the JoFA line has been clutch to say the least. To elaborate, when the game is tied on 5v5 play, they’ve scored four goals and are yet to allow against them. In summary, if the game is on the line, you will see them in action.
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Next, according to Corsica Hockey, of lines that have played a minimum of 50 minutes together, the JoFA line is second in the league with an xGF of 5.79 and first in the league with ten GF.
Presumably, Nashville’s second line would be the next to appear on the list, yet, that’s not the case.
Instead, the Predators third line has accounted for 3 GF which ranks them 24th in the league. Overall, the second line is next to last with only one goal accounted for as a unit.
Scoring Depth Concerning?
Aside from the JoFA line and Craig Smith, no forward on the Nashville Predators have scored more than a single goal on the year.
So, should the Nashville Predators be concerned with a top-heavy offense?
To begin, it should be acknowledged that the past couple of years saw a balanced scoring attack vault the team to the top of the league.
Last year, for example, when the JoFA line would come off the ice, the line of Kyle Turris, Craig Smith, and Kevin Fiala were right there showcasing their speed and finesse. The third and fourth lines followed by sneaking in goals as well. This ultimately resulted in seven forwards scoring at least 30 points for the second straight year.
What we are seeing this year instead is solely top line and defensive production.
Considering the team is still scoring at a good rate and has a strong 7-2-0 record, some might say the Predators would be wise not to mess with a good thing while they still have it. After blowing a two-goal lead with just eight minutes left though, it is increasingly difficult to ignore the lack of scoring outside the aforementioned top-line.
Overall, the Nashville Predators cannot maintain a winning record without more goal scoring at the forward position. Furthermore, their impressive depth is a big part of the reason the team was able to win the President’s Trophy last year and make it to the Stanley Cup Final the year prior to that.
So yes, it is concerning that the top line is creating more higher danger chances (37) than the second and third lines combined (27); especially given the talent we have on each trio.
Because of this, Rocco Grimaldi has been called up and has been inserted into the lineup tonight against the New Jersey Devils.
Though he is yet to play an NHL game this year, he has put up four goals and 11 points in just eight games for the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL.
Will Grimaldo be able to give the team some scoring help beyond the top-line? If not, what will the Predators do to rectify the issue? Can a trade for Nylander still happen?
For the time being, expect to see Laviolette continue to move around the talent he has in hopes that someone sparks the struggling forward units in the coming weeks.