Oct 18, 2013
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Most don’t like the concept of “moral victories,” but I think there’s merit in taking the good from an otherwise negative situation.
When the Predators came away with just a single point from their 2-1 shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings, I truly felt they deserved better. They out-shot, out-chanced, and generally outplayed the Kings for the majority of the game. The Kings strongly pressed in the latter half of the third period and perhaps the Predators went into “prevent mode,” playing to get the guaranteed point, rather than bearing down for the regulation win and the extra point. That’s a bad habit that’s lingered for a few seasons now, but it’s also common in today’s NHL. Nature seems to dictate that a lot of teams would rather play it safe and steady than take risks that, if gone awry, could result in giving up the go-ahead goal.
Aside from that brief letdown, this was an extremely solid effort put forth by the Nashville Predators. Nothing sums up the ebb and flow of the NHL season better than looking at last night’s game or the Maple Leafs game a few weeks back and comparing them to the earlier win versus the Minnesota Wild. Two games in which they controlled possession, only to eventually lose; or conversely a game in which the Predators were crushed in terms of possession, but came away with the victory. Naturally, the preference is always to win the game, but if a team is going to lose, it’s best to lose in the right way. The Kings have a long reputation as a strong, even elite, puck possession team. Look at last night’s game as a good litmus test to the legitimacy of the Predators’ newfound puck possession prowess.
The final result ended up closer than when I first glanced at them after the second period. The Kings put on a bit of a clinic from about midway through the third period up until the end of regulation. Even so, the Predators managed to out-possess a great possession team. As against the Panthers, the entire game classified as “close,” so there wasn’t a score effect to worry about.
At even strength, the Predators won the Corsi battle 49 to 36 and Fenwick by a 36 to 24 margin. Nashville’s shot attempts consisted of 30 shots, 13 blocks, 6 misses, while the Kings threw 19 shots, 12 blocks, and 5 misses toward the Predators’ net. If you had told me before the game that the Predators would tie the Kings or even give up a slight edge, I would have been thrilled. A clear victory in possession takes a little bit of the sting out of a shootout loss.
INDIVIDUAL PLAYERS OF NOTE
Ryan Ellis: Ellis seems to yo-yo a bit. One night, he’s near the team lead in Corsi-For percentage, the next he’s down toward the bottom. These erratic results are in spite of pretty consistent zone starts from game to game. Last night he was “on,” finishing second on the team with a Corsi-For percentage of 71, broken down as 17 Corsi-For, 7 Corsi-Against. The interesting thing is that his deployment was pretty balanced: three starts in the offensive zone, three starts in the neutral zone, and two starts in the defensive zone.
He didn’t get a lot of ice time at even strength, just under 13 minutes, but consider that part of the “easing in” process. While he had a bit of an ugly showing on the power play (directly responsible for a couple of odd-man rushes back the other way), to his credit he recovered nicely and neutralized the scoring chances.
Filip Forsberg: This was a good rebound game for Forsberg after a couple of previous poor showings. He seems to have re-invigorated Legwand offensively, and that’s not a bad thing. I’m not sure what the inclusion of Eric Nystrom has done for the identity of that line, but it did show well. Legwand and Forsberg ended up leading the team in Corsi-Relative, which is to say the team was quantifiably more likely to generate shots with that pair on the ice than when they weren’t.
Forsberg was able to cultivate that chemistry into his best possession numbers of the season, 14 Corsi-For and 5 Corsi-Against, good for a team leading 74%. This in spite of the bulk of his even-strength zone starts coming in the defensive zone.
Matt Hendricks: Hendricks is routinely low on the possession chart and was the worst of the night for Corsi percentage on the team at 39%, in spite of a light defensive zone start concentration at even strength. Interestingly, Hendricks and Gaustad were the only forwards with a negative Corsi rating on the team. Gaustad was used for defensive zone faceoffs on other lines, so his result is a little easier to justify. Hendricks’ -24% Corsi-Relative is the worst among forwards and can be interpreted to mean the team gave up 25% more Corsi-Against events when he was on the ice than when he wasn’t. Not a great statistic.
While I’ve tried to emphasize the importance of puck possession, obviously a strong Corsi game alone doesn’t guarantee a win. The score of this game was more indicative of what happened on the ice than the Toronto game, it’s still a loss. If the Predators occasionally have trouble finishing games, these types of statistical anomalies will exist, but the silver lining is the progress shown in these statistics and what that means in the big picture.
statistics courtesy of The Extra Skater
Photo Credit: David McCargar