When they traded for Kyle Turris and picked up steam early in the 2017-18 season, they proved that their top-six forwards could be scary good.
With their 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, a team with a perennially good top six, on Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena, they showed that not only can they be scary good, but that they’re also one of the best, if not the best, in the Western Conference.
“We want to be up there,” Filip Forsberg said. “There’s a lot of good players and a lot of good teams in this league, but we want to contribute. At the same time, if the top six doesn’t, then the bottom six does. Watty [Austin Watson] makes a helluva play to score that goal. I think we need every single player that we have both, when those guys are playing and when those guys are not playing. We need them all.”
Nashville’s top unit got to work quickly in this one, with Forsberg lighting the lamp on a rebound deflection off Viktor Arvidsson to give the Predators the early 1-0 lead. Their second-unit players also found a way to contribute, as Kyle Turris picked up an assist on Roman Josi’s eventual game-winning goal.
It wasn’t just the fact that they beat the Blackhawks; it was how they did it. The Predators’ group of top-six forwards manhandled Chicago when they were on the ice. According to Natural Stat Trick, Nashville owned 75% of shot attempts while Ryan Johansen was on the ice. His linemates, Forsberg and Arvidsson, were not far behind at 72% and 64.29%, respectively.
“It’s not for me to judge I guess, but we’re pretty confident in ourselves and the way we can play when we’re all supporting each other and doing the right thing,” Johansen said on his line’s performance. “It was a great test for us as a line. It felt like we came on top tonight. We have high expectations for our line, and we need to keep producing.”
The second line of Turris, Kevin Fiala and Craig Smith was none too shabby either. Fiala was fourth on the team with the Predators taking 59.26% of the shot attempts while he was on the ice; Turris was right behind him at 57.69% and Smith bringing up the rear at a none-too-shabby 56.52%.
Head coach Peter Laviolette was very pleased with the way both of his top lines performed.
“I thought they were really good, both Kyle’s line and Ryan’s line generated a lot of chances, a lot of looks, a lot of opportunities,” he said. “I think it was a really good game for Ryan’s line, it might be the best that I’ve seen that line play in a few games. I just thought that they were really strong with their skating, strong with their puck possession. Like you said, they were in the offensive zone and able to generate. Another strong game for Kyle’s line.”
Turris himself has had an noticeable effect on the Predators’ offensive prowess since joining the team this month. He’s boosted the Predators’ average goals per game by over an entire goal, and that was just coming into this game.
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) November 28, 2017
Since being formed, Turris’ line has acted like more of a 1B line than a second line. With a support system like that, which Johansen’s line didn’t have last year, it’s been plenty of fun to be a member of the JoFA Line.
“Yeah, he’s a tremendous player and has added a big boost to our club here,” Johansen said of Turris. “He’s definitely made a big difference with his ability since coming to our club and definitely makes my job easier.”
The Predators will continue their four-game homestand on Thursday night when they take on the Vancouver Canucks.