For all of the troubles and inconsistencies the Nashville Predators had last season that kept them from even getting out of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, those things appear to be remedied after the first two games.
Before I get into all of the positives we’re seeing from the new-look Predators, it’s noted that there’s no reason to overreact over two games against an offensively challenged Columbus Blue Jackets team.
With that said, the depth of this team is what’s really sticking out so far. And a lot of this depth was acquired over the offseason and is quickly paying off.
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At least for two games, and against the same opponent, the Predators are playing with much more consistency up and down the lineup and not making many critical mistakes. They’re not beating themselves.
New players already making their presence known
Whenever a new season starts, the new players on the team always are under the spotlight. This season has been no different for the Predators as they made several low-key offseason additions, and they’re all paying off early on.
Luke Kunin might be standing out the most to me. He’s been a remedy for the second line with Matt Duchene, which was a problem last season. Kunin has a goal in each of the first two games, including one in the rematch with Columbus that was so pretty I have to share it here:
This goal was a product of Kunin skating effectively without the puck and putting himself in a prime position to score. The set-up from another Predators newcomer, Nick Cousins, also deserves a lot of praise.
Plays like this just didn’t happen enough last season. Generating these odd-man rushes and prime scoring chances were few and far between, and often times weren’t finished.
On the defensive side of things, Mark Borowiecki has been as good as advertised. He’s chewing up valuable minutes on the at the third pairing alongside Matt Benning. Another two new guys in town that are instantly making big impacts.
Roman Josi & Ryan Ellis being able to play under 20 minutes because your 3rd pair isn’t a tire fire?
— Alex Daugherty (@AlexDaugherty1) January 17, 2021
Couldn’t agree more with Alex on that take. Josi in particular was taxed so much last season, and still put together a season that ended in the Norris Trophy. Even with that, you want Josi and Ellis more fresh as the season rolls on, and Borowiecki and Benning putting together efficient defensive shifts will be huge.
At least for now, GM David Poile’s busy offseason looks strong. But it’s only against one team, and not particularly one that’s on the top of anyone’s Stanley Cup contender list.
Here’s a look at how every offseason acquisition for the Predators is playing through two games:
- Luke Kunin: 2 goals, 6 shots on goal, 33.3 shooting %, 13:59 TOI
- Nick Cousins: 1 assist, 3 shots on goal, 16:40 TOI, 1 hit
- Mark Borowiecki: 1 assist, 5 hits, 3 blocks, 15:36 TOI
- Matt Benning: 16:21 TOI, 3 blocks
- Erik Haula: 1 assist, 4 shots on goal, 14:24 TOI, 1 block, 1 hit
- Brad Richardson: 1 goal, 1 assist, 1 shot on goal, 57 faceoff win %, 1 hit
- Luca Sbisa: No games yet
- Mikael Granlund: No games yet (COVID-19 protocols and immigration issues delayed his arrival).
Nothing is just popping off the screen with those stats, but the important takeaway is they’re all contributing and taking pressure of the top lines. It can’t all fall on the top line and top defensive pairing.
We’ll take what we can get as Predators fans after going 10 months with just one win (in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers). This is a good feeling, but things are about to get much tougher with two-game sets against Carolina and Dallas up next.