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Forsberg's Goal Drought Unlikely to Last

Despite Only One Goal This Season, Filip Forsberg Shares the Team Lead in Points

by John Glennon @glennonsports / NashvillePredators.com

With Filip Forsberg just days away from becoming a restricted free agent last summer, the Predators made the only logical move: They opened up the wallet.

This, after all, was a 21-year-old player - now 22 - who'd set a franchise rookie record with 63 points in 2014-15, and then tied the franchise record of 33 goals last year.

So the Preds wisely made sure he'd remain in Nashville for a long time, signing him to a six-year, $36 million contract. Forsberg's salary of $6 million this year is third on the team, behind P.K. Subban and Pekka Rinne.

With the new contract, of course, came greater expectations for Forsberg, who's the kind of person and player that takes such responsibilities quite seriously.

The good news for Forsberg and the Preds through 18 games is that he's tied for the team lead in points with 13.

What's surprising, though, is the breakdown of Forsberg's of points - one goal and 12 assists.

Is it possible that Forsberg, who pumped home a combined 59 goals in his first two full NHL seasons, is trying a little too hard to live up to contract expectations?

It's not an uncommon occurrence in the NHL, according to a couple of Predators veterans who've gone through it themselves.

"You see it all the time," Preds Captain Mike Fisher said. "It happened to me years ago, the same thing. You put a little more pressure on yourself, and you get frustrated."

Fisher referenced 2008-09 in Ottawa, the first season of a five-year, $21 million deal he'd signed with the Senators. He began that season without a point - not one goal, not one assist - in his first nine games.

"It was the first big deal I'd signed, and there are times when the mental part of it kind of gets to you," Fisher said. "All of a sudden, you relate the money to production and it's hard to separate that.

"You always come out of it. You put that stuff away. But it's hard to at first, especially as a young guy."

Preds goalie Pekka Rinne can relate as well.

In 2011-12, less than a month after signing his franchise-record, seven-year, $49 million deal, Rinne struggled through a winless stretch of seven-straight starts. But he rebounded quite well, piling up a career-best 43 victories that season and finishing seventh in the NHL's MVP voting.

"I struggled with that whole idea when I signed my long-term deal," Rinne said. "I think a lot of times as a player, you have a tendency to put more pressure on yourself, even though the expectations are just to do the same thing, and to keep evolving and improving. I for sure did that."

What's encouraging for Forsberg and the Predators is that the former first-round pick is doing plenty of things well, even if he's yet to hit his goal-scoring stride.

Through 18 games, Forsberg's 12 assists are tops on the team, and his 13 points are tied with P.K. Subban for most on the team.

In addition, Forsberg is averaging almost two shorthanded minutes per game for a Preds' penalty-killing unit that has surrendered just one power-play goal in the past 10 games.

"I don't just see myself as goal-scorer - I want to be a complete player and obviously take a lot of pride in helping make one of the best (penalty-killing) units in the NHL," Forsberg said. "Sometimes you're not going to score every game. You're not going to find the back of the net as much as you want. But at the same time, I want to be able to help the team in other ways."

Added Rinne: "Even when he's not scoring, he's finding other ways to contribute. He's setting up plays, and he's finding other ways to be productive. That's a really good asset, not only for him, but for the whole team."

What's worth remembering for Predators fans as well is that Forsberg did the bulk of his goal-scoring last season during the team's stretch run. Forsberg amassed 19 goals during his final 32 games in 2015-16, a total topped only by Washington's Alex Ovechkin.

So even if Forsberg may be pressing at the moment, there's every reason to believe he'll start flicking home one twisted wrister after another.

"If you can just focus on other areas of your game and just working and doing the little things, you know it's going to come, especially for a guy like him," Fisher said. "He's so skilled that you know he's going to get hot. He's going to be feeling it."

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