During the preseason, it looked as if the Predators (prospects and veterans) had been playing together for quite some time. Nashville, in all eight games, switched out different line combinations and personnel in order to find out who will make the opening night roster and who would eventually get sent down to the minors. The amazing thing about Coach Trotz’s system is the ability to trade out pieces that somehow find a way to continually contribute to the whole.
A great example of this is the power play of the Nashville Predators during preseason. The Predators averaged 1 powerplay goal per game over the eight preseason games. Some of the scorers include:
Patric Hornqvist (2)
These are the core players that the Predators need to step up this year to make up for some of the scoring loss over the summer and an anemic PP that had Nashville ranked 28th in PPG and 26th in PP%. As it has always been, Nashville remains a score by committee team and this season appears to be no different. The only real difference is the amount of speed and determination this squad has alongside the chemistry that is inherent in the system to which Nashville adheres.
Another characteristic of the Predators adaptability is the way that any defensive pairing that was rolled onto the ice seemed to work almost without a misstep (except for the one obvious Ekholm tripping miscue). The last preseason game against Carolina had defensive pairings as such:
These pairings without the aid of one of the best defensive tandems in the league (Weber/Suter) held the Carolina Hurricanes to just 21 shots on goal (only 3 SOG in the first period). The Predators managed 43 shots on goal with Ekholm leading the charge with nine and Ryan Ellis with five.
Going back to the excellent PP conversion rate for the Predators during preseason, the power play is finally starting to click. The new system allows Ellis/Ekholm and Weber/Suter more movement around the perimeter instead of relying too heavily to one side of the ice. It harkens to the same system employed by the Predators division rivals, the Detroit Red Wings, which emphasizes movement away from the puck, creates more shooting lanes and stretches out the penalty kill of the other team while pinning them in their own zone for extended periods of time.
Another interesting thing to note is the promotion of Craig Smith who will make the opening night roster (unless Fisher is miraculously cleared to play). Smith, who played his way into a roster spot throughout training camp and preseason, had an amazing run in the closing seconds against the Hurricanes last Saturday night. Scoring the overtime winner with just 10.3 seconds remaining solidified his jump to the big club and just proves that in the new Predators system, the road to Nashville doesn’t always travel through Milwaukee (see…even Coach Trotz can adapt).
With only three more days until the regular season begins, Nashville has the opportunity to further their preseason success with an established system of play that focuses on players’ adapting to new roles/line-mates and building chemistry with one another.