He may not be lighting up the scoreboard, but Fish is getting it done defensively. - USA TODAY Sports
Our review of the Nashville Predators after the first quarter of the 2013 season continues with a look at the men in the middle...
For details on the advanced stats appearing in the boxes below, consult last night's post on the defense & goaltending.
Fish is taking on tough work, with a healthy dose of defensive-zone starts and tough competition, and is actually pushing play up-ice better than he has in recent seasons. While he has yet to record a point at even strength (the sole, but major, blight on his record), the power play has clicked at a decent rate during his time there. He's even chipping in well on the second penalty kill unit, too. He also leads all forwards with 21 Blocked Shots (after leading all forwards in 2010-2011, and finishing 10th last season).
Gaustad has a very specific role on this team, and he's fulfilling it well to this point. He stands 2nd to Boston's Patric Bergeron with a 60.9 faceoff winning percentage, and is limiting the damage successfully despite taking a heavy load of defensive-zone faceoffs. On the penalty kill, he leads Nashville forwards with 3:08 per game of shorthanded duty, and the team is giving up just 2.24 goals per 60 minutes of 4-on-5 PK time while the Goose is loose, an outstanding figure (typical values run from 4 to 9).
Leggy stands out as having had a particularly poor start, providing just about as little offense as Fisher but without the defensive contributions to make up for it. Even strength production has been sparse, neither side of the special teams is performing well during his time, and only the whims of the hockey gods have kept his Plus/Minus above water (during his 5-on-5 ice time, the Preds have a .973 save percentage, and no, Legwand doesn't get individual credit for that).
Spaling would appear to be the Robin to Gaustad's Batman. Used on depth lines at even strength and as a primary penalty killer, he's faring decently in those areas but has much to learn on faceoffs, where he's winning just 40% of his draws.