Nashville Predators D Core Finally Showing Life
The Nashville Predators defensive core has been nearly nonexistent on the scorecard this season. However, that started to change during the game against the Edmonton Oilers on December 19, 2022 at Bridgestone Arena in a 4-3 overtime win.
Not all statistics from the defensive pairings will lead to goals however the Predators have always been a team that has been structured around a strong offensively minded defensive core.
Over the course of this article the defensemen that will be included in the statistics are Roman Josi, Alexandre Carrier, Ryan McDonagh, Mattias Ekholm, Dante Fabbro, Jeremy Lauzon, and Roland McKeown.
How the Nashville Predators Defensemen’s Season Started…
The Nashville Predators started their season with a 12-13-4 record through the first 29 games. During that course of the season, the Nashville Predators blue line did not play well in front of Juuse Saros or Kevin Lankinen and did not produce much in the way of offense either.
The Predators gave up 90 goals against and only had 72 goals for. Breaking it down to per game, they gave up on average 3.1 goals per game while only scoring 2.48 goals per game. In a high scoring league, that is not a method for success or winning games.
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Offensively the blue line contributed with nine goals and 35 assist led by Josi, who had six goals and 17 assist. Looking back at the 2021-2022 season, Josi had 10 goals and 18 assist over the same period of time. With the lack of offense from the blue line and from the team as a whole the seven defensemen had a combined -7 in the +/- column through 29 games.
Then there is the penalty trouble. The defensemen struggled with going to the box accumulating a total of 97 penalty minutes. Jeremy Lauzon led the defensemen in penalty minutes with 37 PIM in 22 games played.
When your big-time penalty killers are the ones going to the box, it makes it that much more difficult to kill the penalty. The Nashville Predators allowed 23 power play goals on 101 power play opportunities for the opposing teams.
When it Started to Click with the Nashville Predators Defense
Finding themselves mired deep in the standings with an unexpected terrible record, the Nashville Predators defense led by captain, Roman Josi, knew that something had to change. And change it did starting on December 19, 2022.
This game against Edmonton saw goals come from the unlikely sources of Mattias Ekholm, Jordan Gross, and Alexandre Carrier. With three of the four Nashville Predators goals, including the game winner in overtime, coming from defensemen, the season started to change.
Including that 4-3 overtime win, the Nashville Predators have played 15 games since December 19 and the blue line has played a factor in most of them.
In the past 15 games the Nashville Predators D-Corp has amassed 14 goals, 24 assists, and is a combined +2 in the +/- column. The scoring for defensemen is still being led by Josi with six goals and seven assist in his last 15 games played.
There has also been an elevated amount of offense coming from defensemen such as Ekholm (three goals, five assist) and Lauzon (three goals, two assist) in their past 15 and 14 games played respectively.
The early season penalty trouble seems to have been figured out as well with the blue line having 52 penalty minutes over this stretch. Lauzon has 12 penalty minutes in his last 14 games played compared to the before mentioned, 37 minutes in his first 22 games of the 2022-2023 season.
What Does this Mean for the Nashville Predators?
Since that game in Edmonton, the Nashville Predators have gone 9-4-2 including going 3-2 on a five-game road trip where they played five games in eight nights. Seven of their last 15 games have been played on home ice where they posted a 4-2-1 record. In the eight games they have played away from Bridgestone Arena they have a 5-2-1 record.
With the offensive contributions from the blue line the Predators have 50 goals for and have only allowed 38 goals in the last 15 games.
When the Nashville Predators blue liners are contributing offensively and playing well in front of the heroics of Juuse Saros and Kevin Lankinen, the Predators find themselves in the win column more often than not. If they are going to make a push for the Stanley Cup playoffs this style of play will be relied on heavily through their remaining 38 games.