Players throughout the storied history of hockey have made a home in front of the net. Past warriors like Bobby Orr to Rick Tocchet and in the present Tomas Holmstrom to Thomas Vanek. These rough and ready owners-of-the-paint give goaltenders nightmares and draw the rage of opposing players for their ability to hinder the goalies views of the oncoming comet of vulcanized rubber. If there is one player who takes this job and the abuse that comes with it to the next level, it is the feisty right winger for the Nashville Predators, Patric Hornqvist.
Hornqvist is coming off last season enjoying the second most goals on the Predators with 21. This is a slight drop-off of the previous years 30 goals that led the team in the 2009-2010 season. Hornqvist plays the “Predator Way” in exemplary fashion by “going to the hard areas” digging out the pucks in the corners and stationing himself in front of the net. This proved to be a harrowing job after 2009-2010 when before the start of the playoffs, Patric caught a Shea Weber slap-shot and sustained a broken wrist leaving him unable to play for the Predators against Chicago in the first round of the series. Losing the number one scorer going into the playoffs that year was a tough pill to swallow, and an injury sustained by friendly fire from Weber would be sure to have anyone think twice before standing in front of the infamous cannon from the blue line.
But not Hornqvist…
That means going back in there and proving to everybody that he was going to work even harder in the face of opposition and derision to prove that he belongs on the ice in the most pertinent of situations…and that’s just what Hornqvist did. After scouring video after video of defensive goal-scoring for the Nashville Predators throughout the 2010-2011 season, I found that Hornqvist assisted a few of them without getting the credit he deserves. For starters, all (Yes ALL) of the goals scored by Shea Weber in the playoff series against the Anaheim Ducks were screened by Hornqvist. During the regular season, Hornqvist screened an additional six goals (3-Weber, 2-Franson, 1-Suter). This is not counting the numerous goals he screened for Sullivan, Fisher, Erat, and Kostitsyn throughout the year on the PP. Although a stat that covers screening doesn’t exist, some would argue that it should to prove how effective a player like Hornqvist can be for the Nashville Predators.
This is just the beginning, Hornqvist would go on to score 21 goals during the 2010-2011 season while scoring 13 of them within 3 ft. of the net. His 10 rebound goals shows if another Predator took a shot on goal, more often than not, it was Hornqvist who buried the rebound. One of the best examples was in the first game of the season where Hornqvist batted the puck out of mid-air on a rebound given up by Jonas Hiller. His hand/eye coordination is a deadly asset for the Predators and is the primary reason Hornqvist is probably on the top of the list of another stat that goes uncounted….being face-washed. To go along with his 10 rebound goals, Hornqvist also deflected 3 goals on the year where another Predator shot the puck and he tipped it or misdirected it to go by the goaltender. The talent to pull this off time and time again is a testament to Hornqvist’s skill and determination to stand at the ready in the most dangerous 10 cubic feet of ice. As an added bonus, Hornqvist is pretty nifty with the puck on or off his stick as was proven against Vancouver last season where he picked the pocket of Dan Hamhuis and left Luongo out to dry with a slick inside/outside toe drag to score.
As another fellow countryman and crease-crasher Tomas Holmstrom’s career is starting to wane, we may have found a successor to the throne. I believe this is the year Hornqvist gets back to his 30 goal output and beyond. With linemates like a healthy Martin Erat and Mike Fisher, Hornqvist stands to have top notch talent around him with players that compliment each other’s styles. Coach Trotz needs to instill the Predators lineup to shoot the puck and good things will happen, especially if Patric Hornqvist is camped out in front of the blue ice. Not bad for the last pick of the 2005 draft…