Full disclosure: I was in a bad mood before the game even started yesterday. First of all, west coast puck drops are uncomfortable for everyone east of the Rocky Mountains. How was the groggy eyed audience rewarded for their endurance? With these lines:
There is a word for this arrangement, and it starts with “s”. You guessed it – suboptimal.
Let’s dive into how everyone performed, beyond the goals and assists. All of the values below are from five-on-five (no special teams included) and sourced from either naturalstattrick.com or evolving-hockey.com.
I should probably elaborate on why exactly the forward lines filled me with dread before the game even started. I’ve expressed before that I’m wary of how one-dimensional Nashville can be offensively. That said, Forsberg – Johansen – Arvidsson just works. Sure, it might be the only line working, but spreading the wealth has not been successful for the team this year. As far as I’m concerned, “JoFA” or bust until further notice.
The second line from now on should always be Granlund – Turris – Smith. More likely than not, this is your second line for the playoffs. Why juggle them around now? I recognize that some fans are losing patience with Kyle Turris. In my opinion, he needs consistent ice time with his real linemates until things start falling into place.
Nick Bonino is pretty much your quintessential third line center. He’s a defensive forward with some attacking upside. His skillset is not going to serve the best interests of players like Mikael Granlund and Viktor Arvidsson.
Finally, Cody McLeod. No offense to the guy personally, but the last thing Nashville needs right now is to replace a productive depth winger (Rocco Grimaldi) with, well, Cody McLeod.
That said, how did the lines (at least the ones at puck drop) perform? Let’s take a look.
Make note of a couple key points here. The “+7” for Bonino’s line looks awfully nice, but they only produced one high-danger scoring chance from their ten shot attempts. That suggests a lot of perimeter shooting took place, which drives me crazy. What’s more – they had a major opportunity playing against Anaheim’s fourth line.
The other item to note is the simply miniscule time on ice for the Sissons line. You might need a microscope to see it. This brings me to my primary concern with playing Cody McLeod: he skates for about five minutes a night. A combination of other forwards had to slot in alongside Sissons and Jarnkrok throughout the game, disrupting the lines and increasing fatigue. Their “F” grade is more a reflection of this personnel management than the players themselves.
In contrast with the forward group, I would like to see adjustments made to the defensive pairings. Peter Laviolette switched the top four around earlier this season, and I really liked the result. The sample size was small, but Josi – Subban especially showed signs of a really successful defensive pair.
For the time being, though, the defense once again took its usual form. Let’s see how it played out.
In general, the defensemen played better than the forwards. Still, the top four struggled to produce anything meaningful. The third pairing, once again, was a black eye for the team. The results spoke for themselves, with Anaheim tallying twice against this pair.
There have been many grumblings about Pekka Rinne lately. It’s true, he’s come back to Earth after an extended positive surge. Nashville now has to try to win games without extraordinary goaltending. For a roster like theirs, that should not be an impossible feat.
My expectation for goaltenders is pretty simple: make all of the easy saves and a few of the hard ones. This can be looked at in terms of high-, mid-, and low-danger save percentages. Keep in mind, special teams situations are not included here.
Each of Anaheim’s three goals was scored at five-on-five. Two were produced from high-danger scoring chances and one from mid-danger scoring chances. Rinne’s save percentages in both of those areas were well below his (and the league’s) average.
One game should never be used to make a roster decision, but this is a trend we’ve seen over the course of the season. Only one of Nashville’s goaltenders is trending in a positive direction.
Peter Laviolette needs to get his locker room’s confidence back, and a two- or three-game win streak would be a very good start. At every level, this team needs to get very serious very quickly. They desperately need to re-establish their identity before it’s too late.