Every Monday morning, the PHT Face-Off breaks down different trends and topics around the NHL.
Here’s this week’s stories:
• Predators defense leading the way
The Predators will travel to Dallas to play in this year’s Winter Classic at the Cotton Bowl. When that game starts, Nashville’s top two leading scorers will be defensemen, which is pretty unique. Roman Josi has an incredible 39 points in 38 games this season, while Ryan Ellis is second with 28 points in 38 contests.
As impressive as that production is from the back end, it’s not exactly a glowing endorsement for the work the forwards have put in offensively in 2019-20. In fairness to Filip Forsberg, who is one point behind Ellis, was forced to miss six games with an injury. Had he been in the lineup for those contests, he probably would be second on the team in scoring.
But others like Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansen, Mikael Granlund and Kyle Turris don’t get the benefit of the doubt. If the Preds are going to get back into the playoff picture, they’ll need their top forwards to start scoring at a higher clip.
This Winter Classic matchup isn’t just a fun little regular season game. It’s massive. The Predators are chasing the Stars, who are in the third spot in the Central Division. Dallas is currently six points up on Nashville, so Wednesday’s game will be a four-pointer.
• Stars’ stars not producing as much offense
When you think of the Stars, you think of a team with high-end offensive players like Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov. They also have the next wave of stars coming, as Miro Heiskanen and Roope Hintz have made an impact on the roster, too. But the Stars haven’t found the back of the net as much as you’d think.
Heading into this week, the Stars rank 26th in goals scored, with 107 in 40 games. None of the teams below them in that category are in the playoffs (Los Angeles, Columbus, Anaheim, New Jersey and Detroit). Credit to Dallas, they’ve found a way to keep the puck out of their net, but their best players haven’t put up hose heavy offensive numbers.
Seguin, who leads the team in scoring, has 32 points in 40 games. That puts him on pace to hit the 66-point mark this season. Even though Dallas plays more of a conservative game now, that still seems rather low, especially considering that offense has been up across the board in the NHL over the last two seasons.
In fairness to Seguin, he seems to be picking up the offensive slack lately, as he’s scored five goals in his last six games. He also has nine points in his last eight contests.
• What a year for David Perron
Nobody really expected Perron to put up more points than Seguin in the first half of the season, but that’s exactly what’s happened. Between 2014 and 2018, the Blues forward played for five different organizations. He’s always been a relatively productive offensive player, but he just didn’t last long at any of his stops during that time. Now, he owns a Stanley Cup ring and he’s a point-per-game player in the first half of the season.
Perron has picked up 40 points in 40 games and he doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. The 31-year-old is riding a six-game point streak and he’s racked up 10 points during that stretch. He was nearly a point-per-game player during his one season in Vegas in 2017-18, but he was more of a set up guy that year (he had 16 goals and 50 points in 70 games). This year, he’s already found the back of the net 16 times, so he’s finding different ways to contribute.
His third stint with the Blues may not last as long as his first one did (six years), but it looks like he’s here to stay for now. It’s been an impressive year for this veteran.
• Jonathan Huberdeau likes the number four
The Panthers forward probably put together the quietest 90-point season in NHL history last year, when he scored 92 points in 82 games. Somehow, he’s on pace to eclipse that number by a mile this season. The 26-year-old is flying high right now. He’s up to 16 goals and 53 points in 38 games, which puts him on pace to score 35 goals and 115 points.
He’s also been lighting it up over the last two weeks. Last night’s four-point effort against the Montreal Canadiens was his third four-point outing since Dec. 16! As of right now, Huberdeau is sixth in league scoring behind Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Nathan MacKinnon. That’s some elite company.
Because he plays in a non-traditional hockey market, he’s probably the most underrated superstar in the NHL. The Panthers also haven’t had much playoff success during his time in Florida, but you’d have to think that better days are ahead with him, Aleksander Barkov and company leading the charge.
What’s coming up this week?
— Sergei Bobrovsky goes back to Columbus for the first time since signing with Florida this summer. Tue. Dec. 31, 7 p.m. ET
— McDavid vs. Eichel, Thu. Jan. 2, 7 p.m. ET
— Eastern Conference Final rematch between Washington and Carolina. Fri. Jan. 3, 7:30 p.m. ET
NHL on NBC
— Winter Classic: Predators vs. Stars, Wed. Jan. 1, 2 p.m. ET
NHL on NBCSN
— Devils vs. Islanders, Thu. Jan. 2, 7 p.m. ET
— Blues vs. Avalanche, Thu. Jan. 2, 9:30 p.m. ET
— Red Wings vs. Blackhawks, Sun. Jan. 5, 7:30 p.m. ET
— Predators vs. Ducks, Sun. Jan. 5, 10 p.m. ET
Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.