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The Nashville Predators 10 Games In

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The first stretch of the season is in the books, so what can we decipher from how the team performed?

Harry How/Getty Images

Now that we've officially passed the 10 game mark of the NHL season, we can start to digest some of the numbers accumulating behind the Nashville Predators. It isn't the biggest sample size, but it's enough to at least shed some light on areas where the Preds are finding success, as well as places they need to improve.

Nashville has a winning record, and looks like they'll be the successful team many expected them to be from the onset. They've had their hits and misses so far, but otherwise there's reason for optimism.

We're only looking at the first 10 games, which means Sunday night's defeat in Anaheim will not be included for purposes of this article. It'll be lumped in with games 11-20 later this month, when you've totally forgotten about it. Apologies to Cody Hodgson.

The Team

Let's start off by looking at the basics:

GP W L OT P GF* GA DIFF PP% PK% FO%
10 7 1 2 16 28 21 7 22.6 86.2 46.5

*The NHL.com stats page adds shootout wins into their GF/GA totals. Since this is stupid and ridiculous, we aren't including those and thus the numbers on that page will be slightly different.

The second-best start in franchise history has been enough to keep Nashville running with the best in the West. At the end of the sample, the Preds were third in the conference and only two points behind Dallas with a game in hand.

So it looks like they are playing fairly well, both on the ice and in the points column. What do the numbers say?

CF% SCF% HSCF% OSh% OSv% PDO SF60 SA60 GF% ZSO%
51.7 (7) 50.6 (12) 53.6 (4) 7.6 (16) 93.9 (4) 101.4 (10) 28.1 (15) 26.5 (7) 56.7 (7) 46.8 (23)

All figures from War-on-Ice and are score adjusted 5v5. Numbers in parenthesis indicate league ranking. Glossary at the bottom of the article.

They seem to back that up as well. They are getting some fortunate goaltending (thanks, Pekka!) but that is being offset by an average shooting percentage. Otherwise they aren't playing way over their talent, so don't get worried about falling down the mountain like some sort of avalanche.

While the Preds don't have most impressive CF% at the moment, it's still top-10 in the league. There's still room to improve, and some of that could be held down by their dismal start in terms of on-ice play. Where they currently sit is about where they finished last year, so if they can keep that pace all year it would be fantastic. As we all expected, the defense is doing it's share of limiting shots against, though ideally Nashville will up their shot out put which should lead to more scoring chances.

The biggest improvement from this year to last year are the special teams. The penalty kill is operating at a top-10 clip and, while the power play isn't a powerhouse, it is still working better than at any time last year. Either one could have saved Nashville a couple of games last season, and now that it's competent it may help them out of a few jams going forward. So far, both have been consistent, and hopefully the coaching staff can keep it up.

Curiously, for a terrible faceoff team they are starting a ton in their defensive zone. Probably not indicative of anything, but it's interesting.

The Goalies

Pekka Rinne carried all of the water to start the season, as Carter Hutton was only in net for one start.

Player GP Sv% Shots Saves Goals SA60 Sv%L Sv%M Sv%H
Pekka Rinne 9 92.50 240 222 18 26.33 98.26 92.21 90.91
Carter Hutton 1 92.68 38 41 3 38.2 90.00 100 79.17

Each one performed well, though the team seemed to want to allow every Senator on the ice to have a chance to shoot at Hutton. The one game sample size might be to blame, but it seems like the team allows more shots when Hutton is in net rather than Rinne. Anyone else feel this way?

At this point in Hutton's career as a Predator, nothing matters when he's starting other than a win. He isn't a good goaltender and, turning 30 next month, he won't get any better. It doesn't matter what goes on in a game, because he's going to let in one or two soft goals, and then make a mind blowing save, as long as the result is two points.

Rinne will continue to get majority of the starts, and there shouldn't be any worries if he plays like he has to start this year. He'll have his slumps and hot streaks, but he's performing along with his career numbers right now.

The Forwards

Early on, the stat sheet is saying that Filip Forsberg and James Neal are two of the best forwards on the ice as far as production. The team, for the most part, is doing a pretty decent job of spreading around the scoring so far. Let's take a look at their production vs. the underlying numbers.

Player All 5v5 Score Adjusted
GP G A P S SH% CF% CFRel% SCF% Sh60 GF% PDO TOI/Gm
James Neal 10 7 3 10 40 17.5 56.6 7.4 59.3 10.9 70 103.8 14.7
Filip Forsberg 10 2 6 8 23 8.7 57.2 8.2 62.4 8.57 75 103.9 14.5
1 5 6 8 12.5 51.9 8 50.7 2.33 66.7 103.9 14.5
1 4 5 19 5.2 52.4 0.9 50.2 5.9 85.7 108.6 12.8
1 2 3 12 8.3 57.2 0.3 58.4 4.35 66.7 102.5 14
3 0 3 6 50 40.7 -9.3 30.5 3.18 33.3 97.2 9.5
3 0 3 28 10.7 51.2 -0.8 49 8.37 71.4 104.7 13.2
1 1 2 9 11.1 52.4 1.9 48.7 5.63 50 99.8 10.7
0 2 2 9 0 44 -13.3 30.6 2.97 28.6 97.6 9.4
1 1 2 6 16.6 45.4 -10.5 39.4 5.78 50 101.7 9.4
Cody Hodgson 10 0 0 0 17 0 51.2 -0.7 48.9 10.37 50 99.2 10.2
0 1 1 8 0 48.9 -3.7 47.7 4.66 25 92.8 10.7
4 1 0 1 6 16.6 45.9 -4.8 42.6 9.2 33.3 95.5 10.1
  • It is as you thought it was: the first line is destroying. Forsberg and Neal are two of the best Predators on the ice so far, and Mike Fisher isn't doing so bad himself. They are getting shots, scoring chances, and seem to be set up well for a long and productive season.
  • Colin Wilson may not have too many points right now, but just like last year he's doing everything but producing. We wrote that as long as he continued to do what he was doing he'd find himself on the scoresheet, and it panned out. Lest you be swayed this year, after 10 games in 2014-15, Wilson only had three assists and no goals and ended with a career high in everything. Be patient.
  • Iiiiinteresting. Look at Craig Smith and Cody Hodgson and you'll see the only thing separating them by the numbers is three goals and 11 extra shots. Almost all of their 5v5 rates are identical, which doesn't seem right when comparing what we've seen on the ice. Smith is Smith, and Hodgson has been nigh invisible... or so it seems. So the real question is this: is Hodgson really playing as poor as he looks?
  • The next 10 games should be huge for whether the former Buffalo Sabre is a longterm option for this team. As for the Honey Badger? Well, three points in 10 games (none since Oct. 17th) isn't exactly the what many were hoping for going forward. Considering how the numbers say each player is performing up to par and the eye test says otherwise, it will be interesting to see who starts producing. My money's on the one you'd expect.
  • Mike Ribeiro looks like he's playing like garbage, but the numbers and production don't exactly match up. Let's hope that continues.
  • #CalleJarnkrokfor2C. (Seriously, he's performing very well.)
There's a lot to like with the forward corps right now, but there is also room for tons of improvement. The second line isn't producing right now, and the third line is hit or miss. Given what we can see above, that should even out over time. Still, if Peter Laviolette feels inclined to shuffle a few players around outside the top-three, it's worth a look. (Oh hai, Colin Wilson on the third line.)

The Defense

Things look pretty good on the back end. As we saw above, they are doing a fantastic job of limiting the amount of shots Nashville faces on a given night. They are also doing their part on the score sheet.

Player All 5v5 Score Adjusted
GP G A P S SH% CF% CFRel% SCF% Sh60 GF% PDO TOI/Gm
2 3 5 24 8.3 50.7 -1.7 52.5 4.49 45.5 98.9 17.8
2 6 8 28 7.1 50.2 -2.6 51.4 6.57 53.8 101.2 18.5
2 3 5 24 8.3 52.2 -0.4 49.8 7.34 58.3 103 15.6
1 2 3 8 12.5 51.8 0.1 50.9 2.39 55.6 101.4 16
0 5 5 19 0 55.9 6 51.6 7.85 66.7 102.8 14.7
0 1 1 8 0 57.9 7.5 52.9 4.76 100 106.2 13.7
0 0 0 0 0 23.7 -32.6 25.1 0 0 92 14.2
0 0 0 1 0 22.9 -32.4 25.1 4.46 0 91.3 13.1
  • Holy fancy stats, Barret Jackman! Nothing you could have said would have prepared me for the numbers Jax is sporting right now.
  • Holy small sample size, Bartetto! Jackman's number are likely a result of a very small sample size, and that applies equally for Anthony Bitetto and Victor Bartley. However, while they may not be as bad as the above chart shows, they aren't much better. Make no mistake, any game both of them play together is going to be a dark one for Nashville.
  • It's just a matter of time for Seth Jones. He looks like he's doing everything right on the ice, but just isn't getting rewarded for it in the goal department. Through 10 games the third-year pro is on pace for 41 points, which is one more than Josi scored in his third year. If Jones keeps up his play, his point totals will climb. You should still count on a breakout season, even if his goal totals may not be lofty.
  • If you haven't recently told the Ellis-Ekholm pair how much you love them, don't miss out on your chance.
Overall, the defense is doing exactly what it's expected to do. Limit shots, put up points, and help the team keep the pressure on the opposing goalie. Keep an eye out for how often the Predators go low-to-high from out of the cycle. The defense then either pumps a shot on goal, or opens coverage for a scoring chance. If the forwards can gather a rebound the process begins again.

Conclusion

The Nashville Predators had a fine 10 games, and they still have room to grow.

They will have their pratfalls, but early returns suggest that Laviolette and Co. are pushing the right buttons to keep this team in the conversation for a playoff berth and more. Plenty will hinge on the play of Rinne, Forsberg and Neal, but there's a lot to like about this team so far. If Nashville can string together seven or eight performances over each of the next 10 games like they did during these ones, they'll do a lot of damage.

War-On-Ice Glossary:

CF% (Corsi): Percentage of on-ice shot attempts.

CFRel%: The player's on-ice Corsi% minus the player's off-ice Corsi% is the percent of shot attemps taken by the player's team when the player is not on the ice, but in games where the player is in the lineup.

SCF%: Percentage of on-ice scoring chances.

HSCF%: Percentage of on-ice high-danger scoring chances.

OSh%: Shooting percentage while team/player is on ice.

OSv%: Save percentage while team/player is on ice.

PDO: Sum of a players on-ice shooting percentage and on-ice save percentage

SF60: The rate of shots faced per 60 minutes of play.

SA60: The rate of shots against faced per 60 minutes of play.

GF%: Percentage of on-ice goals scored by the player's team.

ZSO%: Percent of all non-neutral zone on-ice faceoffs taken in the offensive zone.

Sv%(L/M/H): Save percentage on low, medium and high percentage shots.