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Nashville Predators vs. Edmonton Oilers Preview: The Iron Hook Age

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Connor McDavid is in town, but don’t worry. We’ve got Calle.

NHL: Nashville Predators at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Ok, so the Predators let a chance at a nice road victory slip through their grasp because of a bad 2nd period in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. The wonderful thing about the NHL regular season is that you are never more than a couple days away from an opportunity to start a winning streak.

The Preds will have that opportunity tonight against Edmonton.

The Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers roll into Nashville sitting in 3rd place in the Pacific Division. They’ve been on a nice roll recently, going 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and outscoring their opponents 34 to 24 in that span. One of their only losses in that stretch came in a shootout against the Predators on January 20th.

The offense, led by Connor McDavid, is a strength for the Oilers this year. They are 8th in the league in scoring at 2.90 goals per game. The aforementioned McDavid leads the entire dang league with 59 points, including 17 goals. It was only two years ago that we were waiting to see who would get the #1 overall pick in the 2015 draft and, therefore, McDavid. Since then, the Oilers got that pick, drafted McDavid, sent former top picks Taylor Hall and Nail Yakupov packing, and now sit right in the thick of things in the Pacific Division. McDavid is a huge reason why. The goal results speak for themselves, but take a look at what his presence on the ice does for unblocked shots by the Oilers:

Red is a good thing and that’s a lot of red.

The Oilers have also been strong defensively, sitting at 8th in the league in goals allowed per game with 2.56. Their top four includes Andrej Sekera, Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, and Kris Russell, which is a nice mix of young guys and veterans. The Oilers don’t rely on a ton of scoring from the blueline, but when they do it is usually Sekera; he leads the team’s defense crew with seven goals.

Finally, Cam Talbot has carried the team in goal, stopping shots at a 92.0% clip. He is on pace to start the most games in a season that he’s ever started, mostly because the Oilers don’t really have a competent backup. At 29 years old, Talbot appears to be getting the Pekka Rinne treatment... ride him til he breaks.

The Nashville Predators

Is Calle Jarnkrok the new 2C?

No, probably not. But he is certainly capable of filling in that role until the Preds obtain Matt Duchene.

HA HA HA HA HA HAH AAHAAAHAAAAA

For real though, Jarny has had himself a nice little season. His point totals rank pretty far down the team list (he’s got 16 points, which puts him at 13th on the team), but that’s not really how he is being used. He’s a defensive specialist and a damn good one.

Among regular forwards on the team, Iron Hook and Mike Fisher get the bulk share of defensive zone starts, both with over 230 on the season. Receiving the lowest percentage of offensive zone starts on the team, they are both rarely in prime position to score goals. Despite that, they’ve done their share: Jarnkrok has eight goals on the season, while Mike has 12.

But Jarnkrok’s real passion is limiting opponents’ shot attempts. Among regular starters (sorry Reid Boucher), Jarnkrok leads the team in least 5v5 shot attempts allowed per sixty minutes. He also leads the team among regular starters in least high danger shot attempts allowed and least scoring chances allowed per sixty minutes. All this while also leading the team in penalty kill ice time per game. Pound for pound, Jarnkrok is the most defensively reliable forward on the team.

Visually, this looks pretty cool:

That icy block of territory known as The Land of No Shots is where Calle Jarnkrok works his magic breaking up passes, stick lifting, and directing attackers to the more difficult areas of the ice. It’s fun to watch a good defensive forward do his thing and Jarnkrok is no exception.

Having played the bulk of his 5v5 minutes with Austin Watson and Colton Sissons, Jarnkrok suddenly found himself on the 2nd line with Colin Wilson and James Neal in the last two games. The result? The same solid defensive play we are used to, but also three points, including two goals.

So while it is definitely a stretch to say that Jarnkrok is now the 2C we were hoping for, it is not a stretch to say that Jarny can’t fulfill that role until... well, until someone else comes along.

:)

Reasons to Watch

  • Colin Wilson scored a nifty goal on Tuesday night (you may have missed it because you may have turned the game off because the Preds may have played bad in the 2nd period and by that I mean they did play bad). Maybe he will turn into Playoff Willy two months early?
  • No one else really played all that well on Tuesday. This means, I hope, they are nice and angry ahead of tonight’s matchup. This calls for a hateful goal from James Neal.
  • Arvy has been quiet. It’s time for things to get noisy. Watch to see if Arvidsson can get the home crowd on their feet with something cool.

The Important Details

7:00 PM puck drop at Bridgestone Arena. TV: FS-TN, Radio: 102.5 The Game