Holy smokes, what a game. It had everything, goals, bad goaltending, and plenty of power plays. There was offense galore and it seemed like everyone wanted to get into the mix. Both teams feature some of the premier puck movers in the NHL and they were happy to provide a show for the happy few that showed up in San Jose.
Although P.K. Subban left the game early with an injury, the Predators defense looked pretty good. We’ll get into more detail later on, but I honestly thought the Nashville Predators played pretty well. Nevertheless, the San Jose Sharks emerged victorious against them for the second time this season, and it was a wild game.
All in all, I’d say both teams played about 30 minutes of good hockey, each. The Sharks won the first period with ease, then the Predators came roaring back and dominated till about halfway through the third period. The Predators looked like their back to back games finally took their toll at about the 10-minute mark, and the well-rested Sharks took over.
Still, there were some great efforts, so let’s go through each line and assign some grades. All stats below are at five on five unless explicitly stated otherwise.
So this was a weird night for the Predators top line. As I’m sure you know, Filip Forsberg had two goals and Ryan Johansen had a primary assist, but the rest of the night wasn’t too kind to the top line. Check it out below.
The line was put out in offensive zone situations and were expected to produce. They did a decent job but all in all, they were beaten in that regard. Johansen had a rough night in terms of defensive zone battles but did a good job of exiting the zone. The Sharks had the Vlasic and Braun pairing shadowing the trio, which ultimately led to them not producing as many chances as they could have.
For as many points as Johansen and Forsberg got, there was quite a bit of luck involved. Martin Jones is not a good goaltender and probably should’ve saved Smith’s and Forsberg’s second goal. You gotta be good to be lucky though, so this line stayed positive in terms of goal differential. The only thing that’s keeping them from a higher grade is that Colton Sissons was pretty much invisible through the majority of the game. He did end it on a positive note, as his pass to Bonino was just about perfect.
Things didn’t go the second line’s way on Tuesday, they look tired and it showed. The line was technically on the ice for two goals, but those were broken plays and coming during line changes, which is why I’m not giving the overall line credit for them. For instance, Smith’s goal came without Fiala or Turris on the ice. It may seem petty, but it actually helps my ability to keep these articles somewhat short.
Like the top line, the second line was expected to produce offense and didn’t do anything close to that on a regular basis. There would be good shifts where the trio would move the puck well and Craig Smith would take a decent looking shot, but it would be followed by two or three bad shifts.
My biggest issue is that they couldn’t produce a single high danger chance and then gave up seven. Losing the possession battle isn’t the end of the world, but this line needs to create meaningful offense. At this point, I don’t know what’s going to jump-start them.
I don’t want to spend too much time talking about their impact in the defensive zone, but I thought Turris was better than the Ducks game. Fiala obviously made that bonehead play to start the game, but everyone makes those from time to time. I liked how he followed it up with a solid, but respectable game.
The second line’s terrible grade comes from their high danger chance share, as well as the fact they gave up two goals.
I think Ryan Hartman might’ve been the best Predator during the whole 60 minutes. He made mistakes, but his forecheck was impressive and he never looked out of place in the defensive zone. His linemates were ok, but didn’t hold him back too much. We’ll get more into that in a minute, but let’s look at the numbers.
The third line was used in a shutdown role, and they did their job admirably while they were together. What brings them down to a “B” is that the line suffered terribly if Hartman was moved. In two minutes at five on five without Hartman, Salomaki and Bonino had a negative five Corsi differential and a negative three high danger chance differential.
I still don’t understand why Salomaki is on this line, I think Grimaldi’s offensive instincts would be better served next to Hartman. Alas, it’s not a huge issue, but something to ponder over the coming days. Overall, I won’t complain about a good effort from the shutdown line.
The fourth line was, once again, a bit of a mess. Rocco Grimaldi turned out to be a much better winger than Anthony Bitetto, but the whole line suffered against a faster Sharks lineup.
The Grimaldi goal was pretty sweet, but the rest of the night was somewhat forgettable. The possession stats, while not good, aren’t too bad. But it’s once again the high danger chance numbers where things start to go awry.
While this line likes to be physical, I think they should abandon their dump and chase attitude. Rinaldo and Grimaldi are decent puck handlers and could do a good job of making the opponent hustle while the top line guys get a few minutes of rest. Who knows, maybe Grimaldi and Rinaldo could pot a few more.
The reason I gave them a “D” is because their defensive stats are pretty bad, while their offensive stats are non-existent, besides their lone goal. I hope they can figure out a strategy that suits them, because they could be a decent scoring threat.
As I mentioned earlier, P.K. Subban left the game early with an injury, so the line stats for each defender is kind of screwed up. So let’s go through each player individually, just to make this a little bit easier on us.
So the numbers aren’t exactly that pretty, but I’m going to give a lot of leeway here because of their injury situation. Josi stepped up and played some tough minutes against top competition. He did a great job of exiting the zone with possession and jumped into the rush whenever he saw fit.
It’s almost like there was some unspoken contest between him and Erik Karlsson, where both defensemen wanted to show who was more “complete”. Personally, I’d give the edge to Karlsson, but Josi had a world class night and could’ve easily had a point or two. I think a “B+” is fair because he had a few momentary lapses in the defensive zone and made a few bad passes in each zone. All in all, it was a night to be proud of.
Tuesday was not as kind to Ellis as it was to Josi, but Ellis wasn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination.
His stats are worse than Josi’s, but Ellis played a somewhat safe game according to my eye test. He looked more concerned with making the simple play than making the right play, and it paid off more than it hurt him. What I mean by this is that he elected to dump the puck out of the defensive zone more times than I’ve ever seen him do it. Ellis is one of the best breakout passers in the league, but when it came to the Sharks, he just didn’t want to turn the puck over in his own zone.
I think a “B-” is the perfect grade for him, he was above average, but not by too much.
Mattias Ekholm is my spirit animal. It was so fun to watch him and Marc-Edouard Vlasic go head to head in the battle of defensive defensemen. Neither disappointed, although both had their faults.
Ekholm stepped up in a big way, as evidenced by how he led the team in ice time. He did everything asked of him, but he suffered from the same issues as Ellis. Ekholm seemed too cautious in his own zone and way too cautious in the offensive zone. His biggest asset is his ability to physically dominate the puck in both sides of the rink, so I hope he uses that more in the future.
Again, he was missing his partner, so he was probably holding down the fort in an effort to not expose Juuse Saros. But all in all, not using his offensive ability probably hurt the Predators in some small way.
Ekholm was probably the best analytical defender on the team, but Josi’s ability to exit the zone pushed him above Ekholm.
Let’s not talk about Irwin. He wasn’t good but he could’ve been worse. Let’s leave it at that.
Sometimes you eat the bar, sometimes the bar eats you. Tonight the bar, or bear, or Shark, ate Yannick Weber alive.
While these numbers may not look as bad as some other players, it’s important to know that Weber surrendered a team-leading nine high danger chances at five on five. Things were actively getting worse as time went on, so let’s be happy he only ended the game with two goals against.
I get the feeling this sentiment will arise so I want to squash it now. “The Sharks were winning, then Subban left, and then the Predators were winning. Subban must be what’s wrong”. Let’s get one thing clear, this is extremely wrong. Subban is the Predators’ best player and arguably the best player in franchise history. Having him on the ice will always be better than having him in the locker room or press box or wherever. Subban is as good, if not better, on offense as Roman Josi while being as good, if not better, than Mattias Ekholm on defense. I hope he’s able to return soon.
Ok, rant over.
Neither Saros nor Jones looked ready for Tuesday’s game. Both goalies let in some goals that they’ll probably want back, but both also had some pretty impressive saves. Saros’ play is starting to decline and I have a few different ideas why, but the main thought I keep coming back to is the high danger chances against him. Just look at the heat map below to get a better understanding of what I mean.
The Predators barely managed anything in relation to what the Sharks put Saros through. If Jones had been a league average goalie, this game wouldn’t have been tied going into the third. If Saros had been a league average goalie, the Sharks could’ve potted a few more to put the game out of reach.
I’m not saying that Saros played well, he didn’t, but he was better than the Sharks had. This is a useful look for the Predators to see how they rank when they don’t have a top three goaltender bailing them out. I hope the Predators learned something from this experience.