Hindsight Happy Hour: Predators 2, Avalanche 3 - Adjust the Antenna, There’s Interference

An uncommon, complete performance marred by one thing: the inability to get the puck in the net (did you expect something else?)

Welcome to the Hindsight Happy Hour

This will serve as a more in-depth recap of Predators games—if you’re familiar with my Twitter threads during and post-game that include these charts, it will be somewhat similar. Here I’ll take a deeper dive into what exactly happened, what the statistics say, and if the numbers agree with the outcome.

What Happened?

Team Summary

  • What an odd game, in terms of shot volume and quality.  Nashville fired everything at the net at both 5 on 5, as well as the power play, but drew even in shots on goal for one reason: missed and blocked shots.  Corsi For (CF) are the same thing as shot attempts—they include goals, shots on goal, blocked shots and misses.  The difference between a team’s Corsi shots and shots on goal are the off-target blocked shots and misses, and can give you a sense of accuracy for the team.  Nashville fired off 61 attempts in these two game states, yet only 30 were on net.  When a little more than half of all your shot attempts aren’t even making it to the opposing goaltender, you’re bound to struggle to score.
  • Twenty-one of those unblocked shot attempts came from behind the circle, and eight of those were misses.  9 shot attempts were blocked (6 at even strength, 3 on the power play) and 22 were misses (17 EV, 5 PP).  Blocked shots played a role, but Nashville struggled to even get the puck close to the goaltender—14 misses came from the circles or closer, showing that Colorado’s defense forced Nashville into some inaccurate shots.
  • I will give credit where it is due—the PK stepped up again, going 4 for 4 shorthanded.  However, I want to recognize the entire team for doing its best lately to stay off the penalty kill altogether: Nashville did not have to kill a single penalty in the Calgary game, so I’m willing to overlook this game (even though they never should have had to kill the fourth).
  • Juuse Saros was brilliant throughout for the most part, but Nashville was able to force Colorado into taking low-quality shots as well, so while he only gave up two goals at even strength, he was only expected to give up one (1.09 xG).  And this checks out—he made some great saves, but the goals themselves were pretty run of the mill shots.  /

Individual Summaries - 5 on 5 and On-Ice Adjusted 5 on 5

  • At 5 on 5, this was a pretty complete, solid effort for the Nashville Predators.  Roman Josi had a standout game on the blue line, as did Ryan Ellis, both registering two points while maintaining excellent quality shares.
  • The top six forwards split time pretty evenly, with all getting more than thirteen minutes aside from Viktor Arvidsson and Matt Duchene.  Those two, as well as Filip Forsberg, had stellar individual efforts, especially Forsberg, and controlled quantity and quality extremely well.
  • Nick Bonino had the highest individual expected goal total at 5 on 5, yet the high-producing  line with Craig Smith and Rocco Grimaldi played only 7:24 together.  I’m a fan of how John Hynes has deployed the forwards so far to play to their strengths, but giving those three all under 10 minutes seems counter-intuitive.  /
  • If the Nashville individual charts didn’t convince you of how well the Predators played at 5 on 5, Colorado’s numbers should help that.  The Predators essentially reduced the Avalanche to a single five-man unit all game.
  • The more I watch Cale Makar, the more I’m in awe.  The young defender is technically sound, a good skater, and has a feel for the flow of the game and his role within it.  All this from a rookie is fantastic, but he’s also a tremendous defender, and while Quinn Hughes has narrowed the gap quite a bit in the race for the Calder Trophy, it’s easy to see why Makar remains the front-runner.
  • Gabriel Landeskog was one of only three Avalanche skaters to register multiple shots on goal.  It should come as no surprise then that two of those players were responsible for the 5 on 5 goals.  Nathan MacKinnon, on the other hand, had four shot attempts, but only one was on goal.  Tremendous defensive work by Nashville on an injured, but still excellent forward group.
  • Here’s how all the skaters performed relative to each other at 5 on 5:/

Forward Lines - Adjusted 5 on 5

  • Colorado was forced to dress seven defenders due to injuries, so there was quite a bit of line shuffling going on, but for the most part, it worked out well.   MacKinnon and Landeskog were both a force in controlling the game, especially when playing with Hart Trophy contender Valeri Nichushkin.  The trio had a commanding 88% expected goal share in their 5:39 on the ice together.
  • Colin Blackwell, Ryan Johansen and Colton Sissons (all of whom have spent a good amount of time in their careers at center) were deployed nearly entirely in the defensive zone, and as such, struggled heavily to generate offense.  I will give them credit though, as they were only down in quality share by -16%—a pretty decent outing on defense.
  • Forsberg, Kyle Turris and Mikael Granlund were given prime opportunities to excel against a variety of Avalanche players, with all of their faceoffs starting in either the neutral zone or offensive zone.  They managed twelve shot attempts together on-ice, but only six were on net, and shot quality dipped.  You would like to see this trio do a little bit more with these opportunities./

Three Takeaways:

  1. I loved the effort the team came out of the gates with—the first period was a fantastic display of effective zone transitions, shot suppression, and stellar play up and down the lineup.  Even the second period, where Colorado scored both goals, was still a better effort than the average second period we are used to seeing.
  2. The penalty kill is improving, somewhat, and that’s coming mostly because of better goaltending by Juuse Saros and Pekka Rinne (who should be in line to receive at least two of the next three starts).
  3. Nashville has worked hard under Coach John Hynes to put a focus on shot quality.  This game was not an example of that, but it did continue a tragic trend that Nashville has faced in the last two weeks or so.  Despite producing higher-quality shots on average, Nashville is struggling to find the back of the net.  Early in the season, they had a sky-high shooting percentage, but it has come crashing down beginning in January and has yet to recover to even similar levels as October.

Three Up, Three Down

Three Up:

  1. Roman Josi—The Norris candidate continues to show what a stellar impact he can have on both sides of the ice.  Prior to this season, he was known almost only for his offensive skill, but his defense this season has seen an almost unbelievable increase and is a great defensive player in his own right.
  2. Viktor Arvidsson—Yes, the breakaway goal showed flashes of his usual self, but the forward put on a complete game as well, ending the game at 5 on 5 with the second most shots on goal and third in expected goals.  This type of multi-dimensional offensive play is key to Arvidsson becoming a more well-rounded player on the attack.
  3. Mattias Ekholm—He didn’t pop out on the screen for me, but for a defensive player, that’s about what you want to see.  Saddled with Jarred Tinordi, Ekholm managed to contribute on both sides of the ice and I hope we begin to see the elite defensive player he was all last season.

Three Down:

  1. Dan Hamhuis—The veteran who was brought to Nashville to be a “reliable” third-pair defender has not been that at all this season.  He had the lowest ice-time of all Predators players, and had by far the worst shot attempt and shot quality shares while on the ice.
  2. Jarred Tinordi—This is one player where the eye test doesn’t match the statistics.  It’s hard not to watch with a critical eye on Tinordi, but he currently lacks the speed and awareness to be a second-pair defender (or even a third). He is, by definition, an AHL-level player, but he brings two things to the table that I suppose give him a leg up: his size and the fact that he’s not Yannick Weber or Matt Irwin.
  3. See the featured picture for this article.  Just unacceptable.  If you can’t review a call on the ice unless you call it a certain way, maybe you shouldn’t call it if there is any doubt.  Ugh.