This week’s Predators mailbag is full of great questions.

In this week’s edition of the Nashville Predators mailbag we answer a number of interesting questions. Whether or not Nick Bonino will end up being the answer as the second-line center, what’s up with the 5-on-5 play and why Sam Girard has all of the sudden been thrown in the press box.

Nick Bonino played just five games before suffering an injury that has seen him miss the last four games and there is no set timetable on when he may return to the lineup. In his five games in a Nashville sweater he lit the lamp once for his lone point of the season.

The former Pittsburgh Penguin was brought in to be this team’s No. 2 center and to be honest we don’t know if he is or will turn out to be that after just five games. He’s shown spurts of being good and he’s also had stretches of being unnoticeable.

I also think it’s worth mentioning that Bonino is not a flashy player. He’s a responsible two-way forward that plays all 200-feet. If I have to agree or disagree that he will be a successful second-line center when healthy, even with the very small sample size, I would lean towards agree.

Nashville has struggled this season during 5-on-5 play. The Preds have just 10 goals in that situation so far this season which is tied for the second fewest in the league heading into Thursday night’s action.

Interestingly enough, the Preds Corsi For (total shot attempts) of 379 during 5-on-5 play is the ninth best in the NHL while their Corsi For percentage (52.57) is eighth best in the league. With that being said, the Oilers have the highest 5-on-5 Corsi For percentage in the league at 56.95, but also have the fewest 5-on-5 goals in the league with eight. Blame it on being unlucky?

Another glaring statistic, although it is still the early stage of the season, is the team’s shooting percentage during 5-on-5 play which is a very poor 5.29 percent; third worst in the NHL. It even gets worse when knowing that Nashville has recorded the eighth fewest shots on goal during 5-on-5 play during the season as well with 189.

Simply put, the Preds are creating offense and creating shot attempts at a pretty strong rate (high Corsi For), but a large chunk of those pucks aren’t getting on net (low shots on goal total) and the few that do aren’t lighting the lamp (low shooting percentage).

Nashville needs to start hitting the net more often first and foremost. On the flip side of the puck, the Preds have allowed only 179 shots during 5-on-5 play this season which is sixth best in the league.

It comes down to the opposition making the most of their chances and perhaps an extra bounce here and there compared to Nashville not making the most of its opportunities and not getting that lucky bounce.

In all situations, the Preds sit 25th in the NHL in scoring with 23 goals.

Matt Irwin has not looked great this season, but specifically in his last two games. Yannick Weber hasn’t been as noticeable, which for a more stay at home defenseman, is always a good thing.

I believe the Preds do need to give Sam Girard playing time over Irwin at this time. We’re weeks into the season now and Girard has looked solid in his three games played while Irwin hasn’t produced much. He’s been noticeable in his own end both with turnovers and getting caught a little flat footed at times.

Girard did practice alongside Roman Josi on Thursday afternoon while P.K. Subban and Mattias Ekholm paired up as well, per Brooks Bratten.

When it comes down to it, keeping Girard in the press box isn’t doing him or this team much good at all. If Girard plays 10 games it wipes out one-year off of his entry-level deal, but at the end of the day he gives this team more upside, especially offensively, at this moment.

It will be interesting to see what happens with all of this closer to Ryan Ellis’ expected return around the new year, but right now, Girard deserves a spot on the blue line.

Stats via Corsica.
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