Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis had his breakout game of the season Tuesday night against the Arizona Coyotes. The crafty blueliner not only registered three points (1G-2A) on the night, but tallied the shooutout-winning goal to give the Predators the 4-3 victory. The move Ellis used in the shootout was one that he’s had in his treasure chest for some time.
“I’ve got a couple of moves in my bag and that’s just one of them,” said Ellis. “If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Tonight I was fortunate that it did.”
The contributions from Ellis against the Coyotes was his first three-point night in the National Hockey League. While in the Ontario Hockey League, Ellis was not a stranger to big nights, but getting three in the NHL is a big boost for him.
“Any time you can chip in with goals, assists, simple things like blocked shots…that’s kind of what I’m supposed to do,” said Ellis. “It was nice to get a couple.”
Throughout the new systems under head coach Peter Laviolette and with the instruction of Phil Housley, the defense has been encouraged to become more active in the offensive zone. Playing that brand of hockey falls right into Ellis’ wheelhouse.
“I think we’re allowed to go down the walls more and get more active in the [offensive] zone,” said Ellis. “For me, I’m excited and thrilled by that opportunity. Obviously, you have to pick the right time, but tonight, even the last couple of games here, I think we’ve been doing a pretty good job at it.”
While Ellis is known for his ability to chip in on the offense from the blueline, he and his defensive partner Mattias Ekholm were given more starts in their own zone Thursday night. This shows how much trust he and Ekholm have earned with Peter Laviolette as the season continues.
“I think he does a pretty good job in the defensive zone,” said Laviolette on Ellis. “Obviously [Weber] and [Josi] take a lot of the draws that come that way. Most teams are putting out their top guns in the offensive zone, so that match up is kind of built in. It’s not that we don’t trust [Ellis] or any of our players. I think he’s a competitive, two-way hockey player. I think Ellis and Ekholm have been outstanding.”
Even though the game was pushed to overtime, Ellis thought Thursday’s game was a complete effort by the entire team.
“For the most part we did a good job,” said Ellis. “We played hard and did our job. Our penalty kill did great, especially in overtime. Guys are blocking shots and making sacrifices and obviously good teams find a way to win and tonight, we did.”
To start off the season with 10 of a possible 12 points, the Predators are beginning to shows promise of being just that, a good team. With all players continuing to contribute, Peter Laviolette has the team rolling and still atop the Central Division.