by Thomas Sarver
The Nashville Predators powerplay has been beyond just a simple disappointment. It’s been the beginning, middle, and end to the Predators problems this year…unless we are talking about injuries…. but we are not.
Tied for the last place, this powerplay unit is just a shadow of what it was last year when they ranked sixth in the league, and to make things worse, the Preds have the third most power plays in the league with 177. To have that many opportunities on the man advantage and not be able to have more than a 13% success rate is more than enough to end a season early.
When you factor in that the league average powerplay percentage is 20.3 percent and then compare that to the 13.0% that Nashville has, it is absolutely crushing. In a scenario where the Nashville Predators, you know, the reigning Presidents trophy winners, and Stanley Cup contending team, had a league average powerplay. In that situation, the Preds would have a whopping 35 goals on the powerplay, instead of the 23 they actually have.
So, what’s the cause of the anchor that’s holding this team back from pure dominance?
Let’s start by looking at the units and break them down from there
So, first things first, the JOFA line as the number one unit is a must. That line is simply too deadly when playing at even strength to not keep together when there is a powerplay. Now, after we have addressed the obvious thing about this line, the next glaring thing about this unit is that Smith is the fourth skater rather than a defenseman.
That’s normal for more offensive teams, to include a fourth forward and only have one defenseman but for most teams who deploy this tactic, you’ll see them load a player with a cannon of a shot on the blueline, a player like Ovechkin, Stamkos, or someone along those lines. Smith is not that. He is more of a player with a strong wrist shot instead of a real hard slap shot.
As you may notice when I get to unit two, Ellis is not on a powerplay unit at all, and to be honest, he would be a much better fit for Smith’s spot, Ellis has the strong shot, the puck management skills, and the passing to be a real quarterback on this powerplay…. But Smith is cool too I guess…
Ah, back to the good ole three forward and two d-men powerplay, the classic. The whole forward group is a little rough, I like Fiala but not with this supporting cast. I get Bonino’s placement due to Turris’ injury, but I think I’d rather see Sissons down the middle, and either Járnkrok or Hartman on the other wing instead of having Bonino there. I also really think that this is a unit it the main area that could really get a boost from a player acquired in a trade, so keep an eye out for a top 6 winger to possibly come in to help.
Other than that, an in-house option that would be interesting on the second unit is Rocco Grimaldi, his point totals are not all that great, but his on-ice impact is a major building block that may end in him being somewhat of a poor man’s Arvidsson, and that would be great for the powerplay.
Outside of the unit, I think the main problem is that the Preds Powerplay is stagnate. Meaning in last year’s powerplay we saw players shooting from more areas on the ice, especially in or near the faceoff circle this year which is really limiting scoring opportunities.
For example, during the most recent game against Dallas, P.K. Subban did not push into the faceoff circle area when given the opportunity. Even though the closest player was on the other side of the zone, P.K. sat near the blue line. This push forward would’ve opened up a much higher scoring chance and wouldn’t have compromised him defensively because all four of the Dallas Defenders were focused in on Ekholm and Fiala which stretched the players but condensed them into the right side of the zone.
I believe that is the main problem with the Preds powerplay, we can throw in how the players don’t seem ready for passes they receive as well, but the lack of awareness and desire to take advantage of free space on the ice is the real thing that is holding this powerplay back. I wouldn’t expect this unit to change with the roster as is, however, so the best we can hope for is that Eeli Tolvanen will be able to step in and give this unit a jumpstart.