Through 11 games, the Nashville Predators’ top line of Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, and Viktor Arvidsson has been sensational. They’ve combined for 19 of the Preds’ 38 goals so far, by far the most of any other unit on the team. They consistently look like the most dangerous line on the ice for either team night in and night out.
That trend continued on Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers. Filip Forsberg scored three goals, while Johansen and Arvidsson both had assists. The line continued to look as dominant as it has all season.
Filip Forsberg with his 6th career hat trick.
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But the Predators lost to the Oilers 5-3.
Despite the efforts of the Preds best forward unit, the Preds lost for the 3rd time on home ice this season.
This top heavy approach to goal scoring is becoming a troubling trend.
Where Are The Other Forwards?
Coming into the season, the narrative regarding the Predators offense was clear. The team badly needed an increase in goal scoring from the 2nd and 3rd lines. Luckily, they had the pieces in place to make it happen.
Kyle Turris would be entering his first full season as the Predators 2nd line center. Kevin Fiala was coming off a career high in goals (23) and expected to really shine. Craig Smith, a perennial 20 goal scorer, was rejuvenated in working with a quality passer like Turris.
Those three have combined for seven goals so far.
But there were other players expected to step up offensively.
Calle Jarnkrok has been knocking on a 20 goal season for three years now. Ryan Hartman, a former 20 goal scorer, entered the year on a “prove it” contract and was expected to be a regular contributor. Nick Bonino badly needed to bounce back from his awful 2017-18 campaign.
Those three have combined for just two goals.
In fact, the Predators’ 4th line, which was not expected to contribute much offensively, has been better than the 3rd line. Colton Sissons, Zac Rinaldo, and Miikka Salomaki have combined for three goals so far. At times they’ve looked more dangerous than even the 2nd line.
Great Teams Have More Than Just Great Players
Having this sort of top heavy offensive output is very problematic. Over the course of 82 games, your top line will have off nights. Even the best shooters in the NHL only shoot around 20%, which means a lot of shots aren’t going in.
To add to this, great teams are more than just the sum of their parts. A team should never be only as good as its best player. There’s too much luck and randomness in hockey to rely on the actions of one guy every night. Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby are both incredible players, but the Capitals and Penguins won Stanley Cups because of scoring balance.
If you rely on only three of your top twelve scorers to get goals, what happens when they have a bad night? If you need one guy to do everything, what happens when he’s not on the ice? Or injured?
Losses and lots of them.
Like for example, a 3-0 loss at home to the Flames. A 5-4 blown lead loss to the Sharks. Or maybe a “too little too late” effort to the Oilers.
If the Nashville Predators cannot fix this problem, we can expect similar results in the future.
— Image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —