The Nashville Predators are eight games in and entering the fourth week of the season.
Though it seems like a very short time, the Preds have already dealt with line combination changes, injuries to a star player, trade speculation, and the ruthless booting of attempted new game traditions.
With that being said, it’s time to put on our glasses and best suits and head to honky-tonk Wall Street for a stock report.
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The winger took the brunt of Preds fans' frustration in his first full year with the team.
During the 2018-2019 season he earned 23 points, the second-lowest points total for his career. Whether that’s the fault of an all-around bad year for the forward or due to mismanaging his on-ice abilities remains a debated topic.
However, this year it seems Turris is proving he does have ‘it.’ Turris currently has three goals and three assists for six points through eight games. While those numbers aren’t eye-popping, league-leading, Rocket Richard Trophy or Art Ross Trophy numbers, there is enough cause for optimism.
Head coach Peter Laviolette hasn’t quite found the right place for Turris in the lineup, but Turris is proving that he can get the job done no matter where you put him. He has at least a goal or an assist (or both) in his last three games. He’s scored on the Duchene line as a winger and on the fourth line as a center.
In fact, Turris has been so impressive through the first eight games of the season that he’s already the subject of trade rumors. Yes, less than a month into the season, people are already predicting he will be the next sacrifice to the GMDP trade machine.
Regardless of what happens with his place on the team, Kyle Turris is here to let you know he is to be taken seriously on the ice.
“I am a human rocket ship!” Ryan Ellis once proclaimed in an endearing commercial. Though that endlessly ‘GIF’-able moment was scripted, his human-rocket-ship-esque start to the 2019-2020 season is all real.
I feel confident in saying not one person, here at On The Forecheck or throughout NHL media, predicted the defender would be leading the team in points thus far in the season. With one goal and 10 assists for 11 points, Ryan Johansen had better watch his back, because the other Ryan on the team is coming for his team-leading stats.
The defense is currently a liability; Ellis and captain Roman Josi are not liabilities, but two men does not a defense make — or something resembling a proverb.
Ellis is on a hot streak with two assists in each of the last four games. That may come to an end — it’s a long season — but it seems the defender has found a nice niche this season.
I’ll be honest with you, I’ve quickly worn thin on the ‘Matt Duchene is the savior of the Predators and the best hockey player you’ve ever seen in your life’ schtick. (For clarification, to my knowledge no one has actually said that, but that’s what we call hyperbole, folks.)
Though I think we all need to calm down with the Duchene hype, I also have eyes and have seen much of the praise aimed his way is deserved. Duchene is currently just one point behind Ellis in the team’s standings with two goals and eight assists for 10 points. The star center is fulfilling the promise of a high level of play that General Manager David Poile saw in him, so no one should be shocked by his play.
With just two goals, Preds fans could lament they’d like to see more scoring, but you can nearly guarantee those numbers won’t stay low for long.
Oh, Preds fans; when you love something you’re all in and when you don’t everyone in the United States knows about it.
That might be an exaggeration, it might not. You people are loud. However, it seems that you’ve used your powers for good.
Though pedal taverns are one of the many things party-goers and tourists alike find charming in the bachelorette capital of the world, the rest of us know better. They make traffic more of a nightmare than it already is in Nashville, they’re expensive, they’re no longer original, they’re obnoxious, — you’ve heard the ‘woo’-ing — and they’re just tacky at this point.
Sure, the Preds had good intentions with the gimmick, turning it into a way to raise money for charity, but there are other ways to do good that doesn’t involve rubbing your fandom’s nose in a cringe-worthy cliche.
We get it, you are Nashville, hear you ‘yee-haw’, but you can lean into it a little less.
Anyways, my point here was to congratulate you for booing the thing out the doors of Bridgestone Arena — literally. The team parked it in the plaza outside before Saturday’s game. Take your win, Preds fans.
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The penalty kill
Every time the Preds are on the penalty kill, my brain instantly plays the “screaming goat” followed by DMX rapping, “y’all gon’ make me lose my mind, up in here, up in here,” and I, too, begin to lose my mind.
I’m not being cruel — I’m not trying to, at least. The penalty kill really is that bad. Out of 31 teams in the NHL, the Predators have the 30th-worst penalty kill in the league with a 65.4 penalty-killing percentage — yikes.
In the words of The Simpsons, “stop, stop, he’s already dead,” so I’ll leave it at that.
Once again fulfilling a bottom-six role on the team, Watson only has a goal and an assist so far in the season.
He’s been averaging less than 15 minutes on ice per game and he hasn’t had more than two shots in a game yet.
Not only has he nearly been invisible on the ice, but when he has been visible it’s been moments like dropping a fight to San Jose Sharks defender Trevor Carrick.
Watson’s only goal came in the Preds’ season opener and his only assist was Oct. 10. Even as a bottom-six forward, those numbers are abysmal.
At nearly 28 years old, Daniel Carr is running out of chances to solidify his place in the NHL and his recent performance does not look promising for that goal.
With Filip Forsberg out of the lineup due to injury and with poor play from Austin Watson, there should theoretically be an opportunity for Carr to crack the lineup and remain with the team. However, that is no longer the case.
After clearing waivers to be sent back down to the Milwaukee Admirals, Carr remained with the Preds for their game in Arizona. Unfortunately, that game saw more of the same for the forward. By “same”, I mean no goal, no assist, no points. He also saw less than seven minutes time on ice and 13 shifts.
He is now back down in the AHL.
Saturday night games
Elton John said Saturday night is alright for fighting, and the team fought their way back Saturday night against the Florida Panthers, but lost... again.
The Predators currently have three losses in regulation and one loss in overtime. Two of the regulation loses and the lone shootout loss have all happened on the only three Saturday nights of the season.
There is one remaining Saturday night game in the month of October: an away game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Hopefully this unfortunate streak was just an October Halloween curse placed upon the team by a bitter enemy (looking at you Chicago) that will be broken before All Hallows’ Eve.
Wait and see
Anything would be an improvement from last year’s power play, it cannot get much worse — and no, universe, that is not a dare.
The 2018-2019 season saw the Preds in dead last out of all 31 teams for the power play. Out of 234 power play opportunities, the team only scored 31 goals, adding up to a measly 13.2 conversion percentage — ouch.
Currently, the team is just a hair above league average. They’re tied for the 13th best power play in the league with the Panthers — you know, the team they lost to in overtime Saturday. With six goals in 30 opportunities, the Preds are sitting at a solid 20.7 percent. It’s not great, but it’s also not bad at all.
Time will tell if the ‘fang finger’ continues to trend upward, but for now there is cause for cautious optimism.
The young Finnish heir-in-waiting to current Finnish goaltending king Pekka Rinne is having a rough go of it to begin the year.
Juuse Saros was projected to get a more even split of games this season as the Preds prepare their future netminder, but with three starts and three losses it’s not looking great for him. Two of those three games have been the dreaded Saturday night games.
Saros has let in 14 goals in the 95 shots he’s faced. Though it’s a bleak outlook, it’s not all the 24-year-old’s fault. The defense hung Saros out to dry throughout many games — see Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi can’t save the whole defense section, above — and the penalty kill has been nearly absent.
It’s clear Saros isn’t going to get adequate defensive help during games, so he’s going to need to show he too can be a Finnish ‘brick wall.’
For now, let’s keep the “it’s all your fault” chants aimed at the opposing team’s goalie and give Saros a chance outside Saturday night.
Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson
Two thirds of the beloved JoFA line — rest in peace, JoFA — are not off to a start as fast as their former counterpart Filip Forsberg and new teammate Matt Duchene.
That’s not to say that they’re having a bad year, or that they’re going to have a bad year, but last season’s assists leader and points leader (Johansen) and goals leader (Arvidsson) are not on pace to have the team-leading year they had previously.
Johansen currently has two goals and five assists for seven points in eight games so far and Arvidsson has three goals and three assists.
The duo is still finding their footing with new line mates — so far Craig Smith and Calle Järnkrok have auditioned for that top role— so chemistry is a potential factor as well. They’re both still in the top 10 on the team in all stats categories, so it’s not time to panic yet.
Disclaimer: I’m not encouraging betting and I’m not encouraging you to literally buy anything. Don’t yell at me if you lose money.