Turris and the Red Hot Preds
By Kevin Wickersham
A quick look at the NHL standings shows last year’s Cup runners-up tied with the Blues atop the Western Conference, and for the NHL’s best record (46 points), despite having played three fewer games. The Predators remain the hottest team in hockey with a 7-1-2 record over their last ten.
So how is Nashville doing it? From both fantasy and real perspectives, recently there’s been a whole lot of goaltending. Checking into the player rankings from our extremely deep Dobber Prospect League (24 teams, 16 scoring categories, keeper rosters = 19 active players, 27-player minor league system per team), Pekka Rinne is our highest-rated player over the last two weeks with a 3-0-1 record, 1.72 goals-against, .949 save percentage, and a shutout.
Admittedly goalie points are highly valued in our league. The second-highest ranked Predator? Juuse Saros at number 10. His 46- and 45-save outings with one shutout (2-0-0, 1.00 goals-against, .978 save percentage) over that time span show he’s over his early season doldrums.
To get to the first Nashville skater we drop down to the 37th spot, where Roman Josi’s three assists and a goal, plus-six, 18 shots on goal and 16 blocks highlight his stat line. Then it’s P.K. Subban (2 G, 2 A, plus-8, 12 blocks, 16 PIM) at 48th, and Mattias Ekholm at 58th (6 A, plus-8, 14 blocks, 3 power play points).
So what does this say? Obviously we value our defense almost as much as goaltending, and plus/minus still matters along with hits, blocks, penalty minutes, and short-handed goals. The well-rounded stat line brings victory. And Nashville’s defense is great by almost any metric, even with Ryan Ellis out.
But in all honesty, it was the Kyle Turris acquisition that really kicked Nashville up a notch. Since his November 11 move south, the Predators have the NHL’s best record at 13-2-2. That’s even while losing Ryan Johansen for three games to injury. Turris has not only registered 17 points in as many games, but his distribution skills (13 points via assist) have helped create a monster second line out of he and two players that tallied just four goals and nine assists in 29 games combined prior to the trade. The squad was 8-5-2 at that point.
Linemates Kevin Fiala and Craig Smith have set blistering paces since, each with eight goals and eight assists since Turris’ arrival. Now opponents have to focus closely on something other than a Forsberg-Johansen- Arvidsson line.
Coach Laviolette can also experiment with spreading the wealth, as he has lately, putting now healthy Nick Bonino at top line left wing while dropping Forsberg down to the third line alongside Calle Jarnkrok and Pontus Aberg. He’s trying to get Colton Sissons going too, adding him on the top power play unit with Fiala and Turris.
Follwing Turris’ arrival, the Nashville power play has the league’s most goals (19) and best success rate (32.75%), not to mention the most overall goals (65) for a 3.82 per-game average. Before Turris they ranked 27th in total goals for a 2.67 per-game average, ranked fifth in power play goals and tenth in success rate. That’s a pretty spectacular upswing on a team known for its defense.
The accolades continue, as they’ve won the most faceoffs (600), and have the second-best win rate (53.19%) since the trade. Prior to it they ranked 17th in FOW and had the, still impressive, fifth-best success rate (52.35%).
We’ll see if they can sustain this type of play, but things are sure looking good for the eighth-seed in last year’s Western Conference Playoffs. What a difference less than half a hockey campaign makes.
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