Kukla's Korner

Nashville Predators Mid-Season Report: The Defense

After the weekend home-and-home with the Chicago Blackhawks, the Nashville Predators have now played 42 games, which means it’s time for a (slightly tardy) 1st half review of the team.  First, let’s discuss the defense (first-quarter reports found here).

As a group, the Nashville defenders got off to a rocky start in their own end.  Opponents took advantage of rebound opportunities and blown coverage with impunity in the opening weeks of the season, and those problems have generally abated since then.  The following chart presents a simple picture of Goals Against by game over the course of the campaign, along with a black line that denotes the 5-game Moving Average…

Nashville Predators 2008-9 Goals Against Per Game, through Game 42

On the offensive end, here’s how the blueliners are doing so far (“Actual”), their projection based on scoring rates and games played at the end of the 82-game season (“Pace”), and the forecast which I published back in September.

 Shea Weber42131730132253359258152439225
 Ryan Suter4241923818374515892736155
 Dan Hamhuis4221012604202311772532140
 Ville Koistinen2225723410144572936120
 Greg Zanon42369326121862    
 Kevin Klein23325186410353101360
 Greg De Vries391343026859    

Just one more table to go; here are selected Behind the Net numbers for 5-on-5 action, along with the Penalty Plus/Minus figure for each defender (PP/M numbers are one week stale at this moment):

 KEVIN KLEIN2311.581.090.94.3-3
 GREG ZANON4215.080.970.66-13.5-10
 SHEA WEBER4216.190.851.418-15
 VILLE KOISTINEN2211.780.320.23-11.6-4
 RYAN SUTER4216.11-0.541.067.1-6
 DAN HAMHUIS4215.69-0.850.64-9.3-2
 GREG DE VRIES3914.13-1.360.44-6.9-7

And now for the grades…

Shea Weber:  His offensive output has slowed in the 2nd quarter (9 points in last 22 games after 21 in the first 20), and while some of that can be attributed to opponents focusing on playing Weber tightly at the point, great players find a way to either free themselves up for a shot or take advantage of opportunities opening up elsewhere.  His overall impact in 5-on-5 has been tremendous, with the only negative perhaps being his -15 Penalty Plus/Minus; as good as Nashville’s penalty killers have been, Weber needs to do a better job staying out of the box.  Grade: A-

Ryan Suter:  Steadily cruising along in Weber’s afterglow, Suter appears to have made just as large a step forward this season as a defender, logging 23:35 of ice time each night, tied for Weber for most on the team. A solid Corsi number of +7.1 demonstrates how he helps keep the Predators on the attack during his shifts.  Grade: B+

Dan Hamhuis: His early work alongside Greg de Vries was an utter disaster, but since playing alongside Greg Zanon, things have steadied somewhat.  His offensive duties have been mostly stripped away, as he spends almost three times as much time killing penalties as on the power play, a trend that is sure to continue now that Steve Sullivan is working the point on one of the PP units.  Hamhuis stands second on the team in Blocked Shots and Hits, so at least he’s throwing himself into his role well.  Grade: C-

Ville Koistinen: Has failed to lock down a spot in the lineup on a regular basis, after getting beaten in physical battles early on.  His offense at even strength has been virtually non-existent (1 goal, 1 assist in more than 270 minutes of play), and since he’s not looked to for shutdown defensive work, he needs to pile up the points to fulfill his role on the team.  Grade: D+

Greg Zanon: His job on the team is basically to be the Anti-Koistinen; he needs to clog things up in the defensive zone and work the penalty kill, where he leads the team with 4:23 of ice time each game.  Any offense is considered a pure bonus.  He’s 3rd in the NHL in Blocked Shots, and recently has begun to assert himself physically; in the recent games against Chicago, Zanon caught Patrick Kane with a few thundering hits, the type of play that can get a young star off his game.  Grade: B+

Kevin Klein: Like Koistinen, Klein has trouble staying out of the press box, a confusing development for fans who focus on the highlight moments KK can provide (like his breakaway goal in Chicago on October 13) and overlook the miscues that continue to dog him (that goal started when he came out of the penalty box for an unnecessary slashing penalty).  Hopefully continued playing time will help Klein tone down on the gaffes. Grade: C-

Greg de Vries: It’s been a bad, bad year for de Vries on the Nashville blue line.  Plus/Minus is certainly a flawed stat, but his -15 sticks out unmistakably, and agrees with other stats like Corsi to paint a picture that says when #7 hits the ice, bad things happen.  I don’t like bashing the guy because he’s obviously well respected by his teammates and he’s putting in a noble effort (such as his pair of fights with Jody Shelley in a game with San Jose Nov. 17).  But at 36 years of age, it’s an open question as to whether de Vries is coming to the end of his NHL playing days.  One mitigating factor might be a health issue. John Glennon reports that the team is conducting blood tests to determine what exactly has been bothering de Vries lately, and his symptoms include “a lack of energy.” Grade: D

Filed in: Nashville Predators, NHL Statistical Analysis, | On the Forecheck | Permalink


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