The Nashville Predators don’t want the month of November to end. The Preds have an 8-2-2 record so far this month, and have earned 18 of a possible 24 points in those games to climb back into a playoff spot.
One source of Nashville’s recent success has been the improved play of forwards Ryan Johansen and Colin Wilson. In Friday’s 5-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets at Bridgestone Arena, Wilson and Johansen each scored two goals, and accounted for four of the team’s five goals.
“Willy (Wilson) for me has been strong all year,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “He’s just working really hard; he’s protecting the puck. When the points come, you never know; as long as players are doing the right things and playing hard, usually good things follow and I think he’s been a guy that’s been pretty consistent all year.”
Added defenseman Roman Josi: “You can’t take the puck away from him. He’s so strong on the puck and whenever he’s on his game, he’s moving on defense and he’s cutting back. It’s so hard for defense to take the puck away from him because he’s such a big body. Like you said, he’s playing great and he finally got rewarded for it tonight.”
In November, Wilson has scored seven points – two goals and five assists – to go along with a plus-four rating. Known throughout his career as a streaky scorer, this could be a sign that Wilson is about to heat up.
“The last few games have been a little better and it feels good to get rewarded,” Wilson said. “I think it still could get a little better, but I like my last couple games so hopefully I’m in the right direction to keep making plays.”
For as hot as Wilson has been this month, Ryan Johansen has been even hotter. So far Johansen’s November has looked like this: four goals, six assists, 10 points, and a plus-seven rating.
“It’s good for Ryan to get rewarded tonight with some pucks going to the net,” Laviolette said. “He’s a guy that often looks to feed others first. I like it when he shoots the puck; he’s got a terrific shot and tonight you saw him score a couple of really nice goals.”
With only one goal through the first 18 games of the season, Johansen has scored three goals in his last two games. In his first full season as Nashville’s top center, the Predators are hoping to see the Ryan Johansen that scored 59 goals and 134 points from 2013-2015 in Columbus.
“We don’t have a lot of 30-goal scorers, but he’s one of them,” Laviolette said. “The more he gets the puck at the net, the better off we’ll be and the more he’s going to produce. Scoring 30 goals is hard. He likes to look for others and he’s very talented and I think he sees the ice really well, but he’s also got an excellent shot and tonight was a good combination of them both.”