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Here’s What Worked: 3-1 wins over Sens & Blues

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The Predators collected a couple of 3-1 wins over the Senators and Blues this week. Here’s what they did well.

NHL: St. Louis Blues at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Time to unpack what worked in a pair of 3-1 wins this week by the Nashville Predators.

Last week we took a look at what worked in their win over the Avalanche. Surprise! There are some similarities this week! That tends to happen when you get consistent play at key positions.

Pekka Rinne was stellar in goal and the defense supported him well

This continues what has been a welcomed, and somewhat surprising, theme since the beginning of the season. Rinne was arguably the largest question going into the season and yet he has been inarguably the most consistently effective player for the Predators since day one.

This season, in 11 games, Rinne has a .924 save percentage, collecting 306 of 331 shot attempts sent his way. Unfortunately, he is only 4-4-3 in those 11 games, mostly due to a lack of productive offense at the other end. He continues to climb the rankings in 5v5 save percentage among regular starters in the league, currently sitting at 9th with a .938 save percentage. I don’t have the proof to back this up, but I doubt that at any point last year he was even in the top half of the league in that category.

Courtesy of hockeyviz.com, here are the even-strength unblocked shot locations for both games. First, the Sens:

And then the Blues:

A couple things here. One, the Senators attacked Rinne from pretty much all over, and he was up to the challenge. We might question the quality of shots from guys like Cody Ceci and Zack Smith, but not guys like Kyle Turris and Mark Stone. The Predators did a great job of limiting opportunities in the most dangerous part of the defensive zone, the middle slot area (the Turris goal notwithstanding).

Two, the Blues had a number of missed shots from a number of their usually accurate shooters. The equipment may need some fine tuning over there. Still, the Predators did a great job of limiting the number of opportunities in dangerous areas, and Rinne stopped what he needed to. The middle of that ice is relatively clear. The only player the Predators had some trouble with in that area was Paul Stastny, because, well, that’s his job. Rinne stopped all five shots that Stastny got on net.

The Preds Made Defense Fun Again!

This is what we expected going into this season... we expected that the defense would be a lot of fun to watch. With some growing pains early, it looks like we are finally seeing that happen.

The most obvious example was in the Senators game: P.K. Subban’s dangle in the offensive zone that lead to the Neal goal. Another example might be Ryan Ellis’ rip from the high circle, giving Nashville a 3-0 lead late. And yet another example would be the play of the entire top 4 in the Blues game:

During 5v5 play, the Predators top blueliners were consistently generating a lot of shot attempts even while they were giving up a lot at the other end. Side note: though it may seem counter-intuitive to say that giving up a lot of chances is “fun”, this brand of hockey is pretty exciting to watch. It’s fast paced with an emphasis on attacking and offense, lots of long passes, and a lot of skating with the puck. The game never really slows down, so to speak.

Against a team like the Blues, where you’ve got to worry more about size and physicality than you do breakouts and speed, the Preds can get away with their defense playing with an attack first mindset. The constant pressure by the Preds defense created havoc for the Blues, particularly in the 3rd period. In the Senators game, the defense played slightly more conservatively, but still leaned towards the offensive end of the ice.

If the defense is both fun and effective, as it was in these two games, then you like the Predators chances of having more winning streaks this season.

Viktor Arvidsson is a shot attempt generating fool

In both wins, Arvidsson generated the most 5v5 shot attempts of any forward for the Predators. Take a look at his advanced stats for each game:

  • vs. OTT: 13:48 5v5 TOI, 18 shot attempts for, 13 shot attempts allowed (58.1% shot attempt percentage), 4 high danger shot attempts for, 8 scoring chance attempts for
  • vs. STL: 13:18 5v5 TOI, 21 shot attempts for, 12 shot attempts allowed (63.6% shot attempt percentage), 1 high danger shot attempt for, 4 scoring chance attempts for

Earlier in the year, we mentioned that Arvidsson is so much fun to watch. You can’t watch a game and not be entertained when he is on the ice. As it turns out, he is also one of the Predators most dangerous players when it comes to generating offense.

He won’t be the Preds leading goal scorer or leading assist generator, not by a long shot. But he undoubtedly drives possession when he is out there. In Laviolette’s system, that is all he needs to do in order to succeed.