How much can you really learn about a team two games into an 82-game season? Not much, if we are being honest with ourselves. Most of what you can call ‘learning’ about a team is reading into early stats, line combinations, and making predictions based on them.
Not to be too cynical here, because growth and improvement can be seen early on, I just want to be clear that no one should base too much on early-season looks.
That being said, two games in there are already things we can begin analyzing. The biggest, and possibly most important, are: the line combinations, the power play, and the defense.
Predators General Manager David Poile figuratively put all his chips in — or pucks in — on boosting the Preds’ offense, banking on that offsetting a weakened defense.
That being said, bringing in a new 1C when you already have a 1C in Ryan Johansen creates a “good problem” for the Preds: having two top lines. However, it also meant the splitting up of a fan-favorite line. For now, it seems that the JoFA line is no more.
By splitting up the team’s former top and most productive line and paring Filip Forsberg with Duchene and keeping Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson together, you theoretically have more chances to create scoring opportunities. This theory has mostly panned out thus far. Duchene currently leads the team with five points — all assists — and Arvidsson and Forsberg are tied at the top with two goals apiece. Johansen also has two points and is in the top five in team points so far (two games) in the season.
Though the top two lines are a strength, only four of the so-called ‘bottom six’ forwards have one point. Again, we are only two games into the season. This isn’t even necessarily a problem, but if it persists, head coach Peter Laviolette could decide to switch up the lines. Time will tell.
Last year the Predators’ power play was the team’s biggest weakness.
Two games into this season, the Preds are two for six on power play chances, 33.3%.
They scored one power play goal in four chances against the Wild and netted another in two chances against the Red Wings.
It’s too early to tell if that’s really an improvement over last year, but the power play unit of Johansen, Forsberg, Arvidsson, — JoFA reunion — Duchene, and team captain Roman Josi has looked solid. This is essentially the entirety of the team’s top talent.
Could there be something to reunited JoFA? — not trying to beat a dead horse, just saying.
In July, GMDP decided to bet that two top lines of all star-caliber offense would outweigh a weakened defense — so much so that he traded his all star defender P.K. Subban for a bag of pucks and a wad of cash.
Two games into the season and that decision has been costly.
Yes, the team has eight goals and Matt Duchene has five points — in case you didn’t hear, that was five; what was that? You haven’t heard that he has five points from anyone in Nashville? Are you sure? — but the Preds have given up seven goals.
They also have yet to find a solid third pairing on defense. Current third pairing for the first two games Dan Hamhuis and Yannick Weber were factors in three of those goals against.
It’s too early to think about trading for a defender to help plug a spot in the lineup, but it’s also not too early to wonder how the team is going to solve this. You can’t hope for or count on your offense to bail you out every game. It’s also unfair to put that amount of strain on your goalie, regardless of how talented Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros are.
As I said earlier, folks: we are only two games into the season and a lot is going to change.
What are your thoughts on the team so far? Let’s discuss them in the comments.