Hey everybody! Welcome to the nerdcap! It’s the nerdy recap, basically where we here at PBR go back through the game and examine it through an advanced statistics lense. Most stats that we use can be found at websites like Corsica and Natural Stat Trick, but some stats will be tracked by myself and Michael Wade. That being said, let’s jump right into it.

The NHL has been back for only two days and the Nashville Predators are already playing with my heartstrings. They conquered the big apple with a narrow three to two victory. It was a little close for comfort, but let’s give credit to where it’s due.

The Madison Mad Man

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Craig Smith was a man on fire. He couldn’t be stopped and I’m actually surprised he didn’t net one, himself. Smith picked up right where he left off last year as he produced four high danger chances at five on five. That’s 40% of the Predators’ five on five total!

Besides that, Smith had a 55.56% Fenwick, about 12% better than the team average. In fact, Smith was one of seven Predators that had an above 50% Fenwick. We should come to expect these kinds of results though, especially when Smith starts in the offensive zone 70% of the time.

All in all, Smith was a treat to watch and looks just as good on the spreadsheet. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this kind of results almost every game.

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The “Best” Defense In The League

I believe the Predators have the most talented defense in the entire NHL, but it’s hard for me to say that they have the best. Maybe offensively, but their actual defensive play leaves much to be desired. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the heatmap below.

Notice the big red spot in the Rangers’ offensive zone? It’s hard not to. The worst part is that this is not a new development, this happened all last season and into the post-season. It’s only the first game, but this was something I hoped Peter Laviolette and the rest of the coaching staff would’ve worked on. If not, Pekka Rinne will have to be just as good as he was last season for the Predators to contend with the Jets, Knights, and Sharks.

The Predators gave up 15 high danger chances all game, with 14 of them coming at five on five. No disrespect to the Rangers, but this is an offense that is clearly below the Predators. Even when adjusting for score and venue, the Predators were still beaten in this category. High danger defense will need new structuring if the Predators hope to play far into the Spring.

Getting Out Of The Zone

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Thursday night was a mixed bag for the Predators. On one hand, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm were excellent at making breakout passes that exited the zone. In fact, they produced 11 of the 23 passes. There were a few passes that didn’t make it, but the defense completed over 88.46% of breakout passes. Otherwise, Roman Josi and P.K. Subban refused to shy away from carrying the puck. They produced seven of the total nine carry outs by the defense and looked smooth while doing it.

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows though, the defense often became flustered and dumped the puck out. Obviously, sometimes dumping the puck out is the correct move, but not when you do it 26 times in the same game. The worst offender was the newcomer, Dan Hamhuis. He sent the puck out 11 times! Almost doubling the second worst offender, Ryan Ellis.

The good news is that the defense didn’t produce too many turnovers. Only Ekholm and Subban turned the puck over in a breakout attempt, but that’ll happen when they’re relied so heavily upon to get the puck out.

All In All

A win is a win, and it’s only the first game so we can’t really identify any trends. Fans should be happy that their team won, but let’s not pretend everything was perfect. This was a hard fought game where the Predators looked less than pedestrian at multiple times. This kind of result will likely give them a different outcome against the non-rebuilding teams in the NHL.

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