A Tale of Two Teams

Yesterday, Travis Yost posted a piece on TSN asking if the Predators are in trouble. To summarize him, he noted that this team has posted poor possession numbers over their first 8 games. So far in this young season, they clock in at 48.42% score and venue adjusted Corsi for percentage (SVA CF%), which puts them at 19th in the league. He also goes on to demonstrate that 8 games is a pretty good sample size to start evaluating teams for the season. Based on this information, should we reset our expectations for this group to be closer to that of a middling possession team? I don’t think so.

I don’t believe the nine games the Predators have played so far this season are truly indicative of how this team will play throughout the year. Frankly, I don’t think the team that played the first five games is remotely similar to what we should see the remaining 73 games (two of those were the infamous soup related games, and I am going to exclude them from this analysis). Most of this is due to the fact that the defensive core saw a major shakeup in personnel before the Pittsburgh game. Roman Josi and P.K. Subban were split up and assigned Ellis and Ekholm respectively. While the record did not instantly improve, the possession game improved dramatically. Over the first three games, the team clocked in at 44.8%, an abysmal rate for a team with this much talent on the back end. Over the last four games, they have been clicking at 54.4%, which would firmly seat them in the top 5 for the league. This has come against the Ducks, the Sharks, the Kings, and the Avalanche who are top half, top 5, top 5, and bottom 10 clubs respectively based on possession. I believe most of this is due to a more balanced top 4.

So far this season, Subban-Ekholm has put up the better possession numbers of the top two pairings at 51.6% compared to 44.8% for Josi-Ellis (Those damn soup games – Sorry, but I couldn’t figure out a way to separate out that game in the Corsica pairing tool. As such those numbers are artificially low from the Penguins game where Josi was victimized for a SVA CF% of 36). Simultaneously, the insertion of Matt Irwin to Yannick Weber’s side has created a sneakily good third pairing. These pairings look very good going forward.

For the forwards, I don’t really know where to begin. There is not a single trio that has played more than 50 minutes together this season. However, a scary first line has emerged since Ryan Johansen, James Neal, and Filip Forsberg have been put together for the Sharks game. In limited minutes they’ve put up over 60% SVA CF%. It also seems like Ribeiro and Craig Smith have formed a good partnership. When the two have been together this year, they have been a net positive line possession wise. The limited ice time leads me to believe there is still room for improvement from a chemistry standpoint.

So where do we go from here? If these lines hold, we should see the eighth game with these defense combinations on November 10th. In the process they will play the Coyotes, the Hurricanes, the Senators, and the Blues. The Coyotes, Canes, and Sens all have issues, but the Hurricanes are legitimately a top ten possession team, and they have been for some time now. The Blues are looking like a top five team again, and will likely challenge for a spot in the conference final. These four games are a good mix of teams for the Predators to test their mettle against while hopefully picking up points. If we go by that aforementioned 8 game sample period, on November 11th we should have a better picture of what this team actually is. Here is to hoping that it more closely resembles their recent performances.

This FanPost was written by an OTF reader, and does not represent the views of the editorial staff. Got something you'd like to share? Post your own!