On Tuesday night, the Nashville Predators put together an ambitious crossover event at Bridgestone Arena.
Perhaps not quite as ambitious as The Simpsons/Family Guy crossover, but still ambitious.
In a rare move, head coach Peter Laviolette paired his two most dynamic defensemen together: P.K. Subban and Roman Josi. Prior to Tuesday, the two had spent just 159 minutes together on the ice since Subban was traded to Nashville in 2016.
The two defensemen known for their puck-moving ability in the offensive zone actually made most of their key contributions on the defensive end as the Predators dominated the defending champion Washington Capitals in a 7-2 effort.
Subban and Josi started only two of their shifts in the defensive zone according to Natural Stat Trick. They started 11 shifts on the fly and four in the defensive zone. That means they had to take on a lot of responsibility in terms of keeping shots away from the net.
While they were on the ice, the pair was excellent at preventing scoring opportunities. The Capitals had just two high-danger scoring chances while Subban and Josi were on the ice at five-on-five. For comparison, the Predators had nine while they were out there.
Clearly, the trust level in the pair from the Predators coaching staff was high.
“I think it’s always nice if you get the trust of the coaches and it’s always a lot of fun if you get a lot of ice time,” Josi said. “As a player, you always want to be out there.”
In addition to the pair’s spread-out responsibilities across different areas of the ice, they also were put up against pretty much every Capitals forward unit, including the top line featuring Alexander Ovechkin. That strategy proved effective as Washington’s only non-garbage time goal came on a power play.
According to head coach Peter Laviolette, this was just elite defensemen doing what elite defensemen do.
“They’re two really good players,” Laviolette said. “They’re two of the top defensemen in the league. We hadn’t had them together and we were going to move them on the power play together, so we made a decision to put them at five-on-five together. To be honest, sometimes you just try something. I don’t have any history, I don’t have anything that I know that you don’t know on why we tried it. It was just something that we’re looking at and I thought they played pretty well.”
“P.K. and Roman, this was really the first full game for the most part. There might have been other times, but this was a decision to put them together and I thought they did a good job. We’ll probably leave it that way.”
Subban also found himself on the score sheet thanks to an assist on Viktor Arvidsson’s second goal of the game. His point shot was deflected in front of the net by Arvidsson en route to a hat trick for the Swedish forward.
With this new-look top pairing apparently here to stay, it seems that there won’t be any adjustment period necessary for the two All Star-caliber defensemen.
“I think we know each other really well,” Josi said. “We’ve been playing not together, but on the same team for quite a bit now. We both know each other’s tendencies and I don’t think it’s going to take that long.”
The Predators will welcome the Winnipeg Jets back to Bridgestone Arena on Thursday night.