Now that the Nashville Predators are 10 games into the 2013-14 NHL season, it's a good time to consider how things are going, both at the team and individual level.
While it's simply human nature to see the team as having great potential after winning a couple games in a row, or despair after a brutal loss, the wonderful thing about stats (or as I prefer to call them, results) is that they take the whole record into consideration. The good and the bad are placed in proper perspective to yield an overall picture (which may be a bit hazy at this point, but it's coming into focus).
- Record (5-4-1), 17th in points percentage
- 1.90 Goals per Game (27th)
- 2.30 Goals Against per Game (8th)
- 15.2% Power Play (20th)
- 82.9% Penalty Kill (14th)
Nothing new here... an offensively challenged team that also keeps the Goals Against down, but so far is getting outscored overall.
One important thing to keep in mind is that 10 games of team-level data gives us a clearer indication of performance than for individuals, because have more information to work with. So when making judgments based on the data below, keep that varying level of uncertainty in mind.
Reasons For Hope
- Overall the team's puck-possession game appears to be improved, running at 49.6% in the Corsi battle during close-game 5-on-5 action. That is probably the single-most important measure of team performance at this point, and it has taken a significant step forward from last season.
- Matt Cullen has fit in the lineup well, and seems to have helped jump-start Craig Smith's game.
- Pekka Rinne shows no signs of lingering trouble from his off-season hip surgery. He has made 9 starts and generally played well.
- The penalty kill, one of my areas of biggest concern, has been excellent. In 4-on-5 play the Preds have allowed the 4th-fewest shots in the league so far on a per-minute basis.
- Seth Jones has looked better than any of us could reasonably expect out of a teenaged rookie, and his game-winner at Montreal was the kind of highlight we haven't seen around here for quite a while.
- So far, so good for Carter Hutton as Pekka's backup.
Reasons For Doubt
- The Viktor Stalberg era is off to a very disappointing start. How a team signs a free agent like that in the summer only to stick him on a #grit line is a real head-scratcher. Is this Vitali Vishnevski all over again?
- Roman Josi's concussion is a major long-term concern, and it has exposed a lack of depth on the left side of the defense. The Ekholm/Klein pairing has had only flashes of success, and is generally back on their heels in even strength play.
- Colin Wilson & David Legwand are off to sluggish starts, and in Wilson's case it's not just a drop back to a more normal shooting percentage after a fortuitous run last season.
- The same applies to Gabriel Bourque, who, when not scoring goals at a +20% clip like last season, just doesn't look like he belongs on one of the top lines. I love his speed and enjoy watching him play, but a good team should get more out of a Top 6 forward. 10 shots on goal in 9 games ain't gonna cut it, Gabby.
- I admire Rich Clune's goal of becoming a top NHL pest, but he's not there yet, not by a long shot. There's just a lack of discipline and timing, it's like he's a runaway rocket out there from his first shift.
Now, let's take a look at selected data from the lovely & talented Extra Skater (see the FAQ there for explanations of the columns), depicting both the manner in which each player is used, and the team's on-ice performance during their playing time in close 5-on-5 play:
Considering the 10-game performance as a whole, have your expectations changed for the Predators this season? I said before things started that I don't expect this team to make the playoffs, and I haven't moved from that position yet... but how about you?
More from On the Forecheck:
- Wednesday's Dump & Chase: You Can't Win 'Em All
- Minnesota Wild 2, Nashville Predators 0: Pekka Rinne's Strong Play Wasted in Loss
- Nashville Predators at Minnesota Wild Preview: For the Road Sweep
- Milwaukee Admirals Notebook: Admirals Get Points in First 4 Games, Moser & Sissons Producing
- Monday's Dump & Chase:Preds Start Road Trip 2-0