It’s time for a few observations, because we are nearing the end of the first quarter of the season and apparently this is now unofficially a “fair sample size.”
The D Provides Even More O!
Would you believe one of the NHL’s highest-scoring defensive groups from last year would actually be more involved on the offensive side of the puck this year? True story. Seventeen games in, Nashville defenders have chipped in 17 goals. In that same span of time last season, the backend had half that amount.
Why the uptick? Shea Weber, for one, is posting numbers at a rapid clip. Last year, the Preds captain had five power-play goals on the year. He’s already matched that mark with 60-plus games left to play. Roman Josi is also producing (13 points in 17 games) in a way that (pro-rated) should have him exceed last year’s career highs.
Seth Jones Will Take a Bold Step Forward This Season:
While we’re on the topic of defenders, it appears Seth Jones is ready to take his game forward. At the ripe, old age of 21, the blueliner is growing more comfortable in that lanky, 6-foot-4 frame. Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said Jones’ foot speed has improved; he’s stronger and willing to play more physical. From that, Jones is a more confident hockey player, making better decisions and having a stronger impact on the game at both ends.
I notice it most in two key areas. Five-on-five, he’s more reliable. Pairing Jones with Barret Jackman has provided Nashville with a third pairing that can play against anyone, including top-six competition. Now that’s a nice luxury to have. Second, Jones and Ryan Ellis typically run the blue line for the second power-play unit. Again, decision-making is critical here, and he’s making the percentage play consistently. The shots get through and the passes are on the tape. He’s helped make Nashville a threat when on the man advantage.
Last but not least, far from it actually, we turn to Pekka Rinne. The Predators recent five-game home stand revealed something we already knew about the Finnish netminder. He’s very determined, he’s a great athlete and he’s awfully proud. Simply said: a true professional.
He suffered a four-goal loss versus St. Louis and allowed five in a win over Ottawa and looked very “un-Pekka like” all the while. You grow accustomed to seeing him make the unstoppable save, I suppose. By the end of the five-game stay in Nashville, however, Rinne was back in top form. See the 3-2 win over Anaheim as case in point; a game where the Predators were outshot 40 to 21 and could have come away with a far different result were it not for key stops on Carl Hagelin and Andrew Cogliano from Rinne, just to name a few.