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The Josi Effect: Rookie Sparks Preds Success

by Jay Levin / Nashville Predators
Shea Weber and Ryan Suter headline the Preds defense … and for good reason; they’re both All-Star Defensemen and standouts at the Olympic level. However, rookie Roman Josi may be just as important to Nashville’s post-season chances.

While this is Josi’s first trip through the NHL playoffs, he has a long history of playoff success. Last year with Milwaukee he recorded seven points and a +4 plus/minus rating in 13 games during the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs. The year before, in 2009-10, Josi powered Bern's Championship run in Switzerland with six goals and 13 points in 15 playoff games. Plus, Josi has an impressive history at the World Championships, debuting with a six-game appearance at the '09 Worlds as an 18-year old and then following that up with one goal, two assists, and a +3 rating in seven games at the 2010 World Championships.

“I don’t think anything is ever easy for anyone making the adjustment to the NHL, but certainly I’m not surprised that he can do it and that he’s had success doing it because of the attributes that he carries,” Preds assistant coach Lane Lambert, Josi’s coach in the AHL last season, said. “You could see last year in the American league as the season went on and as he got more accustomed to the North American game that he had the attributes that you need to play at the National Hockey League level, so I’m not surprised that he’s had success.”

                                W/Josi                    W/o Josi
Record:                    34-15-3                   14-11-5
Goals For:                152 (2.92)               80 (2.67)
Goals Against:         123 (2.37)               82 (2.73)
Goal Differential:      +29 (+0.55/gm)       -2 (-0.07)
But the extent of Josi's success this season has been impressive. It might not show up directly in his stats, but much more in the team's performances with and without him. His presence has helped the Preds stabilize their defensive pairings below the Suter-Weber duo. At the time of his NHL debut in November the Preds were a .500 team, winning 10 of their first 21 games (10-7-4). With Josi in the fold the team then rattled off a 30-14-3 stretch through the heart of the season, despite playing patches of games without Suter, without Weber, without Kevin Klein, and without Francis Bouillon. Josi missed nine games late in the season and Nashville again returned to .500 play, posting a 4-4-1 record, before closing the season on a 4-1-0 stretch with Josi back in the lineup for the final five games of the regular season – holding opponents to one goal or less in four of those five games.

“You look at him and the way he reads plays and the way he uses his body position to defend pucks and to be successful with penalty killing,” Lambert said. “One of his assets is his intelligence and his ability to read the plays and that’s why he’s been able to make the jump (to the NHL this season). He has great hockey sense and his ability to use that, is certainly something I saw in Milwaukee last season and certainly something that has helped him this year.”

Something About Detroit...
Roman Josi made his NHL debut on November 26 at Detroit, was injured during Nashville's win over Detroit on March 10, and returned from the injury on March 30 for Nashville's final regular season game against Detroit.
Preds assistant coach Peter Horachek, who primarily coaches the team’s defensemen, noted the change in the team defense with Josi in the lineup. “We move the puck out of the zone and we get offensive opportunities because of him. We missed him when he was out because he can do both defending and contribute offensively."

His time in the men’s league in Switzerland before coming to North America gave Josi quite a bit of experience playing against bigger stronger men; it forced Josi to adapt to handling weight in the defensive zone – clearing out the crease against stronger players, dealing with power-forwards in on the forecheck, learning how to battle one-on-one along the boards.

“Before we traded for Hal Gill he was our second biggest defenseman; he has some size, he’s a good skater and he has fabulous hockey sense,” Horachek noted. “He can handle the weight of the bigger players down low and that allows him to defend pretty well. He can skate out of trouble and has great offensive instincts; he knows when to jump into the play, he knows where to be on the ice. All of those decisions just add up over the course of a game. He knows when he’s in danger how to puck pucks in areas that take you out of danger. Early in the season our team game was lacking in decisions and puck management. He’s pretty good in those areas.”

And now, as the Preds are set to start their 2012 Playoff Run, they are hoping the reap the rewards of Josi's poise and past experiences.

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