Nashville Predators: With their defense performing off the charts helping to make a push for Lord Stanley, come expansion time what can things look like for Nashville’s defense?
Nashville Predators: Nashville’s defense has been quite the story this postseason, amounting to a lot of their success. Come a time in the regular season this Predators team, was struggling defensively, and were without P.K. Subban, while Roman Josi was struggling and Ryan Ellis was a basking in the limelight. Nashville let up 220 goals during the regular the season, the only two active playoff team who let in less, Ottawa Senators and Anaheim Ducks. But the Predators faced their fair of struggles between, Pekka Rinne having a lopsided year, R.K. Subban out for a few months, and squeezing into the playoffs as the last wildcard spot. Not many expected Nashville to go this far, playing this well, and even sweep the Chicago Blackhawks but everyone knew they were capable of it. Rightfully so, because of their defensemen, which we have seen are playing outstanding.
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Of Nashville’s top 5 leading performers this playoff run, three out of five are defensemen, out of the 10 leading performers, four out of ten are defensemen. Roman Josi with 5 goals, 5 assists, P.K. Subban 1 goal 7 assists, Ryan Ellis 4 goals 6 assists and Mattias Ekholm 0 goals 6 assists(currently on a 4 game point streak). All through 12 games, no defensive core has produced better than Nashville this playoff year and these four defensemen have carried the load for Nashville this playoff run. Despite James Neal‘s hot stick and Pekka Rinne’s play as of late, a great deal of Nashville’s success is through this four guys.
To put into perspective Nashville has let 21 goals through 12 games, Columbus let up 21 goals through 5 games and Toronto let up 18 goals through 6 games. Double the amount of games played on both teams and similar to the equal amount of goals let up. Unbelievable and I don’t think any team’s defense has done what Nashville is doing right now.
Nashville has three defensemen in top 10 in the leaderboards for defensemen, and two in the top 5 (Ekholm #13). In 2015-2016 no team had defenseman post those type of numbers. In 2014-2015 Anaheim had three defensemen in the top 10 leaderboards, but that was with 16 plus games played of each player. 2013-2014 Stanley Cup winners Los Angeles Kings had three defensemen in the top 10. 2012-2013 Boston Bruins went to the cup with three defensemen in the top 10. By the numbers, as one can tell, a strong defense seems to lead to deep playoff runs and Stanley Cup wins and or appearances. Nashville on their way to their first ever Stanley Cup appearance, I guess we’ll find out in two more wins.
And Nashville’s defensive success is not going to stop next year, we’ll hopefully not. If Josi, Ekholm, and Subban continue to perform then Nashville will be a force. Nashville has Subban, Josi, and Ekholm
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locked up until 2019-2020, and Subban and Ekholm until 2021-2022. The big concern here is Ryan Ellis contract expires next season and he becomes a unrestricted free agent, with the Vegas expansion draft and Nashville’s nine forward contracts to sign or not, 3/9 of those forwards will get either a contract raise or sign back, Ryan Johansen after this playoff run may earn $5+ mil/a year, Viktor Arvidsson 45 point boost from last season, coming off his entry-level deal could be a long term deal and the long time veteran Mike Fisher will more than likely sign back for the same price $4.4 mil/a year. Leaving Ellis in some expansion draft territory, it’s possible due to his unrestricted tag and only $2.5 mil/a year contract. Don’t freight though, I mean obviously be concerned since Ellis has been a machine this year. But Nashville has four defensive prospects that have been playing great in the minors and major junior leagues, Samuel Girard, Frederic Allard, Jack Dougherty, Alexandre Carrier, all four of them earned their potential performance bonuses. Girard in the QMJHL this season had 75 points, 66 assists and a +29 plus/minus rating, Allard had 14 goals, 51 assists, 65 points in 63 WHL games and progressively increased his numbers year by year. All four of these kids are on entry level contracts as well until 2018-2019. Along wit Anthony Bitetto, who we saw perform quite well last playoffs, Nashville has a lot defensive tools. With Yannick Weber and Brad Hunt contracts expiring next season expect a young prospects to be up and down with Nashville next season.
The future looks bright for Nashville’s blue line, but right now it’s Stanley Cup playoff time, with Nashville’s 2-1 win Tuesday night, they’re two wins away from their first Stanley Cup appearance. Nashville fans were letting them hear it last night, the fans are ecstatic, the city is ecstatic and Nashville has all the tools to punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup.