A couple of notes before we get to the break down of the blueline for 2018/19… first… congratulations to the St. Louis Blues on their double overtime win last night to take their series against the Dallas Stars… despite an amazing game from Stars netminder Ben Bishop. They await the winner of tonight’s Game 7 in San Jose as the Avalanche and Sharks battle it out… SlapShot Radio is on at 6pm as part of 102.5 the Game’s pregame coverage of game seven between the Sharks and Avalanche that will begin right after SSR.
Now… on to today’s review of the Nashville blueline in 2018/19…
The Predators defense corps is hyped as one of the best in the NHL, and talent-wise, that may be true… execution and system may be a different story. Any objective observer can see that this was not a great year for the Preds blueline both statistically and using the eye test. The blueline just never seemed to gel, never seemed to get into a rhythm.
The top pairing of Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis had a decent year offensively, combining for 22 goals and 75 assists… it’s hard to call that disappointing, however… Ellis seemed to struggle at times, driving speculation that he wasn’t fully recovered from his offseason surgery after the run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017. His game did seem to improve as the playoffs approached and portends well for next season when his new contract kicks in. Josi finally looks comfortable being the captain of this team, he had a good season, avoiding his sometime habit of trying to do too much. He came up big in crunch situations, scoring a career high tying 4 game winning goals in the first NHL season of his career where he played in all 82 games.
The second paring of Mattias Ekholm and PK Subban seemed to struggle a bit at different times of the year. Ekholm had a simply horrendous playoff series against Dallas, taking ill-advised penalties and generally was frustrated throughout… this after a regular season that was excellent, probably the best regular season of any player on the Nashville blueline, posting career highs in points, assists, +/- and shots. Subban missed 19 games in the middle of the season and the injury seemed to really impact his play upon his return. PK really didn’t seem to get his game together until March and was arguably the Predators best defenseman in the Preds short-lived playoff run. There is much being said about his performance vs. his salary, and let’s face it, when you have the kind of cap hit that PK does that should not be surprising. He has a habit of following a not-so-good season with a very good one so expecting much better from Subban next season is reasonable.
The third pairing is where things get interesting for this team. The rotation of partners around Dan Hamhuis seemed to settle when Dante Fabbro joined the team in March. Hamhuis missed 15 games due to injury, but he was a steady influence of this pairing and makes the perfect mentor to Fabbro who looked very solid in his first NHL experience. Fabbro is playing in the Worlds this month, which should helps his development even more. A second season of mentoring with Hamhuis will really help him complete a successful transition to the NHL. The other players in the rotation, Yannick Weber and Matt Irwin were just OK. Weber showed a little more solid play than Irwin, but these two players will battle it out for the 7 spot on the roster next season.
The current situation on the blueline is in flux… at least if you read a lot of media reports and Twitter. Every player should either be traded or dumped if you read social media. I applaud David Poile’s foresight in bringing back Dan Hamhuis as Dante Fabbro’s mentor and I think that a good rookie camp and training camp will solidify his spot on this roster and spell the end of either Weber’s or Irwin’s tenure with this team. The trade rumors that are flying certainly adds to the story, along with a Roman Josi extension that should happen post-July 1.
It is this observer’s belief that the blueline needs to temper their “high-risk/high-reward” style a bit, a little bit more responsibility when pinching would be helpful and would not leave the netminder hanging out to dry as much as happened last season. Puck management, the details of the system need to be attended to and improved upon.
Next up… the forwards.
The Playoff Status
The Eastern Conference
(2) Boston vs. (WC2) Columbus – BOS wins 4-2 – Next up – Eastern Conference Final
(2) NY Islanders vs. (WC1) Carolina – CAR wins 4-0 – Next up – Eastern Conference Final
The Western Conference
(2) San Jose vs. (WC2) Colorado – Series tied 3-3 – Game 7 – Tonight - 8pm - NBCSN
(3) St. Louis vs. (WC1) Dallas – STL wins 4-3 – Next up – Western Conference Final
- Worlds – The IIHF World Championship tournament starts on Friday. Five Predators are participating. Kyle Turris and Dante Fabbro are playing for Canada, Roman Josi and Yannick Weber are skating for Switzerland and Mattias Ekholm will play for Sweden.
- Worlds TV Coverage – NHL Network will carrying over 30 games of the tourney, starting on Friday with coverage of Canada vs. Finland and Team US vs. Slovakia.
- Community Impact – The Nashville Predators Foundation set another giving record for the organization, awarding 145 grants worth over $675 thousand dollars.
- Jerk – Yup… I am referring to Don Cherry, who wouldn’t know fun if it bit him in the butt… hey Don… get off our lawn!
- Concussion lawsuit – It looks like 137 former NHL players have reached a settlement with the NHL on their litigation filed in 2013. The settlement is estimated to be worth 18.9 million dollars and includes money for players named, medical treatment expenses and a “common good” fund.
- Hometown boy – Patrick Maroon scored the series winner last night in double OT to send the Blues to the Eastern Conference Final. Maroon hails from the St. Louis area.
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