Tuesday night, the Nashville Predators edged the Florida Panthers by a score of 4-3. In this instance, the close score was truly indicative of a close game. Coming into the contest, the Predators were middle-of-the-pack in terms of their possession numbers, while the Panthers ranked 26th. Coming off of two straight games in which Nashville dominated their opponents relative to traditional shots and Corsi events, it would have been reasonable to expect that they could extend their streak against a weak possession team like the Panthers. That didn’t end up being the case as the possession numbers were almost dead even,with the Predators coming out with only a slight advantage. This may explain why coach Trotz, David Legwand, and Shea Weber all made allusions to a less than stellar performance. The numbers tend to agree and reflect that sentiment.
With most of the game played 5 on 5 and close(with the score within a goal of being tied), score effect doesn’t come into play, so we have a pretty level baseline to look at. The Predators registered 47 Corsi events, broken down to 28 shots, 10 blocks, 9 misses. The Panthers had 43 Corsi events–21 shots, 9 blocks, 13 misses. For the game, this amounts to a 52 to 48 percent edge in total Corsi events. A very slight edge representative of the very slight final score.
INDIVIDUAL PLAYERS OF NOTE:
Craig Smith: For the second game in a row, my eyeball gauge didn’t fail me. Craig Smith played his best game of the season and lead the team in Corsi-For: 18 and 6, for 75 percent. Smith’s zone starts heavily leaned in the offensive end, which is typical for him. Even so, a good game for a guy that I was pretty hard on (deservedly) for most of last year. His Corsi relative (31.1%) is also the best on the team.
Matt Cullen: Second great game in a row for Cullen. Like Smith, his 5 on 5 zone starts tended to be in the offensive zone, but his 73 percent in a game that the Predators as a team were relatively even with the Panthers in is nothing to sneeze at. The fact that Smith and Cullen play on a line together shouldn’t be ignored–we have a pretty clear picture of which line has been the best and most effective for the Predators, over the last two games.
Patric Hornqvist: In a surprising turn, Hornqvist, long established as the best possession player on the Predators’ roster, came in with a 40 percent rating, comprised of 9/13 Corsi For/Against. It’s rare that Hornqvist turns up in the negative column for Corsi, and he scored the eventual game winning goal, so it’s difficult to be too hard on him. It’s worth noting, nonetheless.
Paul Gaustad: I recently singled Gaustad out as a historically negative Corsi player, owing to his assignments. Go figure, in a game in which the team drops off of their recent possession dominance, Gaustad turns in 10 Corsi-for, 7 Corsi-against, or nearly 60 percent. That’s even with a high concentration of defensive zone starts. His linemate Matt Hendricks had similar numbers in similar deployment. While I’d stop short of utilizing these numbers to say that the energy line was an “offensive threat,” they were effective in keeping the puck off of opposing sticks, and you really can’t ask for much more from your “energy line.”
Gabriel Bourque: Bourque is another player I’ve been a little hard on, but he played a solid game last night. The numbers agree: 17 Corsi-for, 6 Corsi-against, 74 percent on the night. Even more impressive is that he had such a great night with a balanced deployment: 5 starts in the offensive zone, 4 each in the neutral and defensive.
As stated earlier, I had hoped for another “statement” game against a weaker opponent, but I’ll take a slight edge in possession combined with a win on the scoreboard anytime. With a traditional possession-powerhouse such as the LA Kings coming to town, this should be a great measuring stick for the new and improved Nashville Predators.
As always, statistics courtesy of The Extra Skater.
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