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Nashville Predators @ St. Louis Blues Preview: But, Really, Who's Better?

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Everything is high fives and handshakes around Smashville right now. There are growing rumors that some national hockey writers are starting to say complimentary things about our hockey team, but I'm sure that's just conjecture. We still have more provin' to do... and we have to do it yet again against the Blues. So which is the better team right now?

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Five days after Saturday night's 2-1 thriller, the Nashville Predators will return to St. Louis to take on the Blues in their second meeting this year. Who knows how the rest of the season will turn out, but these two teams are extremely similar right now. Neck-and-neck in points, goals for, and goals against... and both teams have 10 wins in 15 games played. Obviously, last Saturday's win tilts the scale in our favor, but one 60 minute span does not make a season. So which team is better? Or, a better question, which team is playing better hockey right now?

The St. Louis Blues

The Blues still probably have the hottest player in the league in Vladimir Tarasenko. Brian Elliott is 10th in the NHL with a .928 save percentage, which is partly why the Blues are league leaders in points allowed per game at 1.87. Let's dive further using a current player usage 5v5 chart:

Some observations:

  • There sure are a lot of "blues" on that chart.
  • Nearly all of the Blues forwards have above 50% Corsi-for numbers, with the exception of a few 3rd/4th liners. Their top two lines are stellar right now.
  • 3 of their 6 regular defensemen (Jay Bouwmeester, Alex Pietrangelo, Barret Jackman) have below 50% Corsi-for %, which is interesting.
  • The 2nd line (Jori Lehtera, Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko) is playing well enough to play Paul Stastny off the ice a little bit. That will likely change over the next few weeks.
  • Ok, so the Blues are pretty good. Not much new info here. Let's move on...

The Nashville Predators

Now a look at the Preds 5v5 chart:

Some Observations, in light of the Blues chart:

  • Paul Gaustad and Eric Nystrom are doing the dirty work, as usual, and getting pretty dirty results.
  • As if the goals and highlights weren't enough, this chart is further proof that our 1st line is really clicking right now.
  • Only 1 of our 6 regular defensemen (Anton Volchenkov) has a Corsi-for % below 50, which is also interesting.
  • Gabriel Bourque isn't helping himself much, unlike Calle Jarnkrok.
  • Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm are eating alive the lesser competition. Keep it comin'!
  • Cluner... :(
In conclusion, one thing is clear. Both Hitchcock and Laviolette are rolling out lines about as effectively as possible. Each team is playing well to its strengths while hiding its weaknesses. Skilled defensemen are getting quality offensive zone starts and defensive-minded forwards are toughing it out in the defensive zone. It would appear that right now the Blues forwards are slightly better than the Preds forwards and the Preds defensemen are slightly better than the Blues defensemen, but there are many other factors at play here.

So we will call it a wash between the Preds and Blues skaters. I'd like to think our forwards have better hair, but unfortunately there are no advanced hair stats to analyze.

With Pekka Rinne's slightly better .934 save percentage (6th in the league), I'm gonna give the edge to Predators right now.

Shocker, I know.

Reasons To Watch

  • Because they don't decide games using charts, graphs, or Excel spreadsheets.
  • Because #PrinceFilip

The Important Details

The puck drops at 7pm! TV coverage will be on FS-Tennesse, radio will be on 102.5 The Game.

And Now...Back To You Guys!

Guys.... Back to you guys!