Nick Bonino

Predators disappointments Rinne Duchene Johansen
Getty Images

Biggest surprises, disappointments for 2019-20 Predators

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the surprises and disappointments for the Nashville Predators.

Rinne ranked among biggest disappointments for Predators

After a midcareer hiccup, Pekka Rinne skyrocketed back up the goalie ranks in recent seasons. Rinne won the 2018 Vezina Trophy as the highlight of this rebound, but was quite strong (.918 save percentage or higher) from 2016-17 to 2018-19.

Things weren’t pretty in 2019-20 … at least beyond the goal Rinne scored.

After a splendid start (7-0-2, .920 save percentage in October), Rinne plummeted to a sub-backup level. In the 27 games since, Rinne went 11-14-2 with a dreadful .887 save percentage. (That ties Rinne with Carter Hutton for the fourth-worst save percentage among goalies with at least 10 games played during that span.)

Juuse Saros stumbled to start the season, too, suffering through a .895 save percentage before the All-Star break. Luckily for the Predators, Saros turned things around in a big way, managing a .936 save percentage in 17 games following that break.

If the 2019-20 season resumes, it might be a disappointment if John Hynes chooses Rinne over Saros — at least if the two goalies continue on opposite trajectories.

Top Nashville defensemen found another gear?

While goaltending failed Nashville in some unexpected ways, you could argue the Predators’ defense somehow got stronger. At least if you’re grading the top guys.

Roman Josi cannot be ignored as the most obvious standout. Josi easily topped all Predators scorers with almost a point per game (65 in 69 contests). He also cleaned up his defensive game quite a bit, which silenced many of his doubters.

You could argue that in some ways, Josi surged off the charts. I had to raise the y axis of his Evolving Hockey RAPM chart to four deviations to account for his Corsi For/60 in 2019-20. (Translation: Josi was fantastic in 2019-20, and didn’t just ride a hot hand.)

Roman Josi not among Predators disappointments Evolving Hockey

When you consider all-around play, Josi may just be a better choice for Norris than John Carlson. That’s a debate for another day, though.

Injuries limited Ryan Ellis to 49 games played in 2019-20, yet he still managed to place fourth in team scoring with 38 points. That sandwiches Ellis between two $8M centers (Matt Duchene at 42, Ryan Johansen at 36).

Mattias Ekholm completes the Predators’ tremendous trio, sitting at 33 points with sound all-around work.

Considering P.K. Subban‘s sad 2019-20 season, the Predators hit a lot of the right buttons on defense. That was huge, because you could argue that almost every other facet of this Predators team hovers over the “disappointments” category.

Forward group remains on list of disappointments for Predators

When it comes to investing in goalies and defensemen, the Predators have consistently received good to outright fantastic value. That’s part of what made Rinne’s 2019-20 slump one of their surprises.

But it seems like no matter how much money the Predators pump into adding forwards, they end up worthy of the same gestures: a shoulder shrug, if not a shoulder slump.

After chasing Matt Duchene for quite some time, the Predators got what they wished for. Paying Matt Duchene $8M per year doesn’t automatically make him anything more than Matt Duchene.

And, hey, Duchene is … fine.

Yes, managing a modest 42 points in 66 games is underwhelming. Especially when you attach the phrase “for an $8M center,” which some understandably can’t resist.

Duchene checks out reasonably well in underlying stats, providing some of the better numbers of his career in that area. That $8M price tag will only look worse as he ages, yet Duchene really isn’t the problem. He just doesn’t solve many of your other problems.

Because, honestly, Duchene isn’t even the Predators’ most disappointing $8M center. That goes to Ryan Johansen. Johansen isn’t a bad player by any stretch — like Duchene, his underlying stats are respectable — but he can be frustrating. It’s one thing to be a playmaker. It’s another to become one-dimensional, which feels like a fair way to describe Johansen. Johansen averaged just 1.49 shots on goal per game this season, basically falling in line with his career-low from 2011-12, when he was 19.

An expensive committee

That “fine … but expensive” feeling hangs over others. Kyle Turris, Nick Bonino, and Mikael Granlund pitched in 30+ points each, helping the Predators score by committee .. but a very expensive committee.

It was a relatively tough season for Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson, too. They both still rank as big bargains, mind you, but it was that kind of season for Nashville’s forward group.

Such widespread disappointments make you wonder if there’s something systemic going on for the Predators. While they addressed that by firing Peter Laviolette, I’m not so sure John Hynes will end up being the answer.

All things considered, it might be a pleasant surprise that this team entered the pause in playoff position. Maybe the Predators could generate bigger surprises if those disappointments turn around?

MORE ON THE PREDATORS

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Capitals vs. Penguins on NBCSN: Bonino Bonino Bonino!

Hockey Week in America continues Saturday with memorable playoff performances in the Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin rivalry.

The Capitals needed a win to force Game 7 in Round 2 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Facing the Penguins yet again, the clawed back from a 3-1 third period deficit to force overtime. It was there, however, that Pittsburgh once again topped their Metro Division rivals. This time it was Nick Bonino breaking their hearts to put the Penguins on a path to the franchise’s fourth Stanley Cup title.

You can catch Game 6 of the 2016 Penguins vs. Capitals playoff game Saturday on NBCSN beginning at 10 p.m. ET or watch the stream here.

SATURDAY NIGHT SCHEDULE
• Capitals vs. Penguins (Game 6, Round 2, 2016 playoffs) – 10 p.m. on NBCSN
• Capitals vs. Penguins (Game 6, Round 2, 2018 playoffs) – 12:30 a.m. on NBCSN

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Week in America can be found here.

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

NHL Fantasy Hockey: Zucker, van Riemsdyk among this week’s best adds

Welcome to our weekly Adds/Drops column, where I focus on highlighting players you should consider grabbing or be concerned about in fantasy leagues. As always, the goal here isn’t to recommend 10 players you must add and five players that need to be dropped. Context is everything and the context of each league is different. What this is instead is a guideline so that if you’re looking to make a change, you have potential players to target and if you see players I’ve suggested to drop, you can evaluate your potential alternates.

Players Worth Adding

Kailer Yamamoto, Oilers – RW: Edmonton summoned Yamamoto on Dec. 31st and they’ve never had any reason to look back. He has seven goals and 14 points in 16 games while playing primarily with Leon Draisaitl. He had some false starts earlier in his career, but he’s a talented young forward who should be a significant part of the Oilers’ offense from here onward.

Jason Zucker, Penguins – LW/RW: Zucker is owned in 58% of Yahoo leagues at this point and normally I wouldn’t highlight a player whose already been scooped up in that many leagues, but I wanted to make an exception in this case because he’s a great addition if he’s still around for you. Being acquired by the Penguins significantly boosted his fantasy value. He’s averaging 17:14 minutes since joining and, more importantly, is playing alongside Sidney Crosby. He’s an already established, skilled winger who is now playing with one of the best players in the league. This should go well and there’s already evidence that it will with him recording three points in three games with Pittsburgh.

Alex Galchenyuk, Wild – C/LW: While I see Zucker as a must-add, Galchenyuk, who was part of the same trade, is a big gamble. Like Zucker, the trade has boosted Galchenyuk’s value, but in Galchenyuk’s case, he was hovering around zero prior to this trade. While Galchenyuk was a capable top-six forward with Montreal and to a lesser extent with Arizona, he didn’t work out at all with Pittsburgh. Galchenyuk’s role steadily dropped throughout his tenure with the Penguins to the point where he was averaging just 7:21 minutes per game. In Galchenyuk’s first two games with Minnesota he logged 12:26 minutes and then 13:44 minutes – so better, but not great. Still, what makes me tempted to keep an eye on Galchenyuk is the Wild’s decision to pair him with Mats Zuccarello when he has been on the ice. This is an opportunity for Galchenyuk to re-establish himself as a top-six forward and he has all the motivation in the world given that his contract is up at the end of the season. Maybe it’s a stretch to pick him up this minute, but I would keep him in mind this next week and if it appears that he is working out in Minnesota, scoop him up.

Miles Wood, Devils – LW: Like Galchenyuk, Wood is someone to keep a close eye on for now rather than pick up right away. Wood has 10 goals and 20 points in 57 games, so he hasn’t been worth owning in standard leagues, but he’s also only been averaging 12:42 minutes. He has three goals and four points in his last six contests though while logging an average of 14:34 minutes over that span. That increase is encouraging and with Blake Coleman now in Tampa Bay, Wood’s role could increase further. On Sunday, with Coleman no longer in the lineup, Wood took his former spot on a line with Nikita Gusev and Travis Zajac. Wood also has 89 hits, so he can contribute in that regard and if your league values PIM instead, he’s noteworthy there too with 51 minutes.

James van Riemsdyk, Flyers – LW: van Riemsdyk is a hot-and-cold player who is producing right now. He has five goals and 14 points in his last 13 contests and is currently on a four-game point streak. Overall this season he’s a somewhat borderline fantasy asset in standard leagues, but at the least he’s worth considering in the short-term.

Patric Hornqvist, Penguins – RW: Hornqvist isn’t someone that makes sense to have on every fantasy team, but for those in need of a reliable right winger due to injury, he’s a good stopgap measure. He has 14 goals and 26 points in 40 games while posting a solid plus-eight rating and contributing 87 hits, so he’ll help you across the board. He’s also been performing particularly well lately with three goals and seven points in his last seven games.

Jonas Brodin, Wild – D: With two goals and 24 points in 58 games this season, Brodin is just a point shy of his career-high. That’s not enough to warrant his inclusion on the vast majority of standard league fantasy teams, but he’s not too far behind the curve. He’s at least worthy of consideration during hot streaks like the one he’s currently on. He has a goal and four points in his last five games.

Brandon Sutter, Canucks – C/RW: Sutter has never been a major offensive threat and injuries during his tenure with Vancouver have further obscured him. This season he’s appeared in just 34 games, though he has a respectable eight goals and 16 points over that span. He’s hot right now with two goals and five points in his last three games, but what makes this a little more interesting is the fact that Vancouver has given him a bigger role over that stretch. He’s averaged 14:55 minutes this season, but he’s logged between 16:05 and 19:02 minutes in each of those three games. Even if Vancouver continues to lean on him like that, he might not be a great addition in the long run, but if nothing else, he’s an okay gamble for the moment.

Craig Smith, Predators – RW: Smith has been clicking lately, scoring an incredible six goals over his last five games. With 17 goals and 28 points in 58 contests, he’s not a great player to hold onto at all times, but as long as he’s hot, he has some value. Just don’t hesitate to swap him out for someone else after he stops scoring.

Nick Bonino, Predators – C: If a center is a better fit for you right now than a right winger, than you might want to consider Smith’s linemate, Bonino. He’s been hot right alongside Smith, scoring three goals and eight points in his last 11 games. Bonino is up to 17 goal and 34 points in 58 contests this season, so he’s been a better offensive contributor than Smith, but because of how deep the center position is, Smith is owned in 12% of leagues to Bonino’s 10%.

Players You May Want To Drop

Erik Karlsson, Sharks – D: Karlsson is still owned in 75% of Yahoo leagues at the time of writing and no active owner in a single season league should have him on their team. It’s painful, but he’s already been ruled out for the rest of the season due to a broken thumb sustained on Friday, so there’s no benefit to him occupying a spot on your team. If you are in a keeper league though, there’s certainly reason to still hold onto him. Although injuries have limited Karlsson in each of the last two seasons, when he’s healthy, he’s still one of the league’s top offensive defensemen.

Ilya Kovalchuk, Canadiens – LW/RW: When Kovalchuk first joined Montreal, he seemed revitalized with four goals and eight points in eight games. He’s slowed down dramatically since then though with two goals and four points in his last 11 contests. He’s still getting big minutes in Montreal, which makes him an interesting forward to keep an eye on and there’s also the potential that the Canadiens might opt to trade him given that they’re eight points behind Toronto in the playoff race despite having played in one extra game. A trade involving Kovalchuk is more likely to hurt than help his fantasy value because it will likely result in him getting fewer minutes, but you never know. Even if you do drop him now, he’s still worth keeping a close eye on.

Anthony Beauvillier, Islanders – C/LW: Beauvillier has a solid 17 goals and 36 points in 57 games this season, but a big chunk of that production came from a recent hot streak. He had seven goals and 13 points in 10 games from Jan. 14-Feb. 10. If you had him during that time, you reaped the benefits, but he’s also had some long cold stretches and we might be witnessing the start of another after he was held off the scoresheet in his last three games. 

Jake DeBrusk, Bruins – LW/RW: DeBrusk scored seven goals and 14 points in 13 games from Jan. 7-Feb. 8, but that hot streak is behind him. He’s been held off the scoresheet in each of the Bruins’ last four contests. Overall this season, he has 18 goals and 34 points in 55 games, which is decent, but not quite enough for most fantasy owners to justify holding onto him all-year-round.

Jonathan Drouin, Canadiens – C/LW: Drouin has an ankle injury, but it’s not clear yet if that’s a big issue. So far it doesn’t sound like it is. He sustained the injury on Wednesday, tried to play through it Friday, and then sat out Saturday’s game after participating in the pregame warmups. For Drouin though, this recommendation has very little to do with the injury and far more to do with his recent play. He has been limited to three assists in his last 10 games and hasn’t recorded a point in four contests since he returned from a wrist injury that cost him most of the campaign. It might be a matter of rust and if given enough time he might be able to move past it, but there’s not a ton of time even left in the campaign for him to regain his rhythm.

If you’re looking for fantasy hockey information, Rotoworld is a great resource. You can check the player news for the latest information on any player and insight into their fantasy outlook.

Every week Michael Finewax looks ahead at the schedule and offers team-by-team notes in The Week Ahead. I have a weekly Fantasy Nuggets column where I basically talk about whatever’s captured my attention that week. Gus Katsaros does an Analytics columns if you want to get into detailed statistical analysis. If you’re interested in rookies and prospects, there’s a weekly column on that written by McKeen’s Hockey.

Matt Duchene, Filip Forsberg rally Predators past Devils

Matt Duchene scored in regulation and the shootout-deciding goal in the Nashville Predators’ 6-5 win against the New Jersey Devils.

Filip Forsberg scored twice and lit the lamp in the opening round of the skills competition as the Predators erased a third-period deficit for the second straight game. Mattias Ekholm and Nick Bonino also scored. Pekka Rinne added 27 saves.

Despite two goals from Pavel Zacha and two points from Nikita Gusev, the Devils picked up their fourth loss in the previous five games.

Predators ready for playoff push?

If Nashville has its eyes on the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, now is the right time to climb up the standings. After an impressive win against the Eastern Conference-leading Washington Capitals Wednesday, the Predators collected another important road victory and are currently two points out of the wild card with two games in hand on both the Vegas Golden Knights and Arizona Coyotes.

Even though the Devils are near the bottom of the NHL standings, the Predators should be proud of their effort which resulted in two points in the second leg of a back-to-back on the road.

“We are showing a lot of character right now,” Duchene said on the NBCSN telecast following the win. “We didn’t have any passengers tonight, everyone was going.”

If the Predators can string a couple of victories together, they can erase a disappointing first half in a hurry. Nashville will take on Vegas at Bridgestone Arena Saturday before embarking on a critical four-game road trip through Western Canada.

Can Zacha turn the corner?

Zacha became the first Devil since Mike Cammalleri to score a shorthanded goal and power-play tally in the same game per Devils’ statistician Craig Seiden. The 22-year-old forward showed off his silky hands when he converted a nifty deke to even the score at 1-1 early in the first period. He would later benefit from a deflection when he knotted the score again in the middle frame.

The Devils invested a lot of draft capital in Zacha when they selected him with the sixth overall pick of the 2015 draft. The Czech forward has been largely inconsistent throughout his brief NHL career and has failed to live up to his draft status thus far.

There is not a magic formula for player development in the NHL. Each individual improves his ability and adjusts to the demands of the sport at a different rate. Will Zacha’s performance Thursday be a building block toward his path to stardom? The Devils have a few of the right pieces with Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes and others, but Zacha’s maturation could be an X-factor in the Devils’ quest to turn things around.


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Alex Ovechkin passes Steve Yzerman in Capitals’ loss against Predators

Filip Forsberg #9 of the Nashville Predators skates past Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals
Getty Images

The Nashville Predators overcame several turnovers and a one-goal third-period deficit in a 5-4 win against the Washington Capitals.

Yannick Weber scored the go-ahead goal at 15:23 of the third period and Juuse Saros added 29 saves as Nashville won for the second time in three games. Jarred Tinordi, Mikael Granlund, Rocco Grimaldi and Ryan Johansen also scored for the Predators while Filip Forsberg recorded two assists.

Alex Ovechkin scored a milestone goal and Richard Panik scored twice but the Capitals’ four-game losing streak came to an end.

Ovechkin surpasses Yzerman

The Capitals captain eclipsed another NHL legend in his quest to join the 700-goal club. Ovechkin buried a loose puck late in the first period Wednesday and passed Steve Yzerman for sole possession of ninth place on the NHL’s all-time scoring list with his 693rd goal.

Ovechkin is one goal away from passing Mark Messier and seven goals from becoming the eighth player in NHL history to score 700.

“You’ve had a tremendous career to date, and it looks like you’re going strong and might play forever,” Yzerman said in a video played inside the arena. “Best of luck and continued success. I’ve really enjoyed watching you play and watching you fill the net.

“One more thing, if you ever do break Wayne Gretzky’s all-time record for most goals in the league, after watching your Stanley Cup celebrations, I want to be invited to your party.”

[RELATED: Alex Ovechkin honors late Kobe Bryant with No. 24 jersey]

What in the World?

Each goalie made a crucial mistake and Nick Bonino managed to score an own-goal in a wacky back-and-forth game between the Capitals and Predators.

Ovechkin pulled the Capitals to within one goal late in the first period when Juuse Saros misplayed a puck behind the net that resulted in an easy tap-in opportunity for the Russian forward.

But the Predators were not finished with mind-boggling mistakes as Bonino’s outlet pass ended up in the back of the net early in the middle frame. Nashville’s center paid the price for a bad pass through the crease when the puck deflected off Saros and the Capitals tied the game at 3-3.

However, in order to even things out, Braden Holtby had a costly turnover early in the third period that directly led to Johansen’s game-tying goal.

All in all, these mistakes are not what would you expect from highly skilled NHL teams.

 


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.