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Perfect Strangers: Switching the Defensive Pairings


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After taking some time to delve into the goals scored against the Predators and see just how many could be laid at the skates of one Kevin Klein, what I found to my surprise, was that it wasn’t Klein’s fault. After the game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Trotz may have adjusted correctly and disassembled a certain defensive pairing that wasn’t working.

During the Tampa Bay game, the defensive pairings were as follows:

Shea Weber/Ryan Suter
Kevin Klein/Francis Bouillon
Jonathan Blum/Jack Hillen

And how did this rearrangement turn out? Here are the numbers for the game:

Weber +3 / 1 SOG
Suter +3 / 0 SOG
Klein -1 / 2 SOG
Bouillon -1 / 1 SOG
Blum +1, 1 Assist / 1 SOG
Hillen +1, 1 Assist, 2PIM / 2 SOG

While these numbers are nothing to get hugely excited over, let’s take a look at some of the other games where Blum and Klein were paired together:

Vs Phoenix:
Klein -3 / 1 SOG
Blum -3 / 1 SOG

Vs. Edmonton:
Klein -1, 1 Assist / 0 SOG
Blum -2, 2 PIM / 0 SOG

Vs. Vancouver:
Klein -1 / 0 SOG
Blum -1, 1 Assist / 1 SOG

Vs. San Jose:
Klein -2 / 2 SOG
Blum -2 / 0 SOG

The Phoenix game was the worst example by far and the Edmonton game showed the weakness of pairing Klein and Blum together (Not so fun fact: including the Tampa Bay game, Klein has been on the ice for 15 of the 26 goals scored against the Predators this season). A similar example of this miss-match of defensemen is when Trotz would pair Hamhuis and Klein together. Although each of them (including Blum) is a decent defender, the pairing of Hamhuis/Klein and Blum/Klein doesn’t necessarily gel.

Caoch Trotz did a magnificent job at splitting up that pairing. By putting a stay at home defenseman with a more aggressive defenseman, similar to the correlation of Weber and Suter, the Nashville Predators can elicit a balanced defensive effort and allow for more carries into the offensive zone from a more offensive-minded defenseman. For example, Hillen has a unique ability to start the rush like Suter, so to have Blum on the back end making sure the neutral zone is covered, it creates odd man rushes and scoring chances. The proof is in the results where Weber and Suter (with Suter as the primary puck mover) move into the offensive zone and by throwing the puck on net allow for Craig Smith, Sergei Kostitsyn, Patric Hornqvist, or Mike Fisher to bury the rebound or corral the puck for setting up the offensive push.

Kudos for Coach Trotz in affecting the change that bolstered the Predators defensive front and the offensive barrage that followed. Also, none of this would have been possible without the patient recovery of one Francis Bouillon (coupled with the return of Mike Fisher) adding the experience and veteran leadership that Nashville needed before Saturday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks and the upcoming road trip.