Whether you call him “Crazy Legs” or “Smitty” or “Craignog,” the one thing all Predators fans can agree on is that Craig Smith is one of the more consistent players for Nashville.
Since becoming a full time winger for Nashville, Smith has been as reliable a 20-goal scorer as anyone else on the team. Entering this season, Smith was tied with Filip Forsberg in 20-goal seasons, compiling four such seasons since 2010. And with his recent play, he’s well on his way to earning his fifth in 2018-19.
20+ goal seasons for the #Preds since 2010:
1. Filip Forsberg – 4
2. Craig Smith – 4
3. Patric Hornqvist – 3
4. James Neal – 3
5. Viktor Arvidsson – 2
6. Mike Fisher – 2
7. Shea Weber – 2
— Alex Daugherty (@AlexDaugherty1) January 6, 2019
Speaking of being tied with Filip Forsberg, Smith just scored his 14th goal of the season on Saturday, bringing him to a tie with Forsberg in goals on the 2018-19 campaign.
While I still like Forsberg’s chances to lead the team in goals when he eventually returns (which should be soon), Craig Smith has shown yet again why he’s such a valuable asset to the top six.
Whenever you are dealing with goal scorers, the word “streaky” gets thrown around a lot. Guys like James Neal and Filip Forsberg have often been labeled as such, probably mostly because they would go on ridiculous goal streaks.
But Craig Smith is rarely given that title, mostly because he just continues to produce on a weekly and yearly basis. He isn’t a flashy player, but he uses his speed and eye for shooting as consistently as anyone. More recently he’s been going to the front of the net more often, which is also good to see.
Having said that, Smith is currently on a nice little streak that’s helped him equal Forsberg’s goal total for this year (note that Forsberg has been out since December 1st). In his last seven games, Smith has seven points, including four goals.
He’s also been coming up with some clutch goals. Smith had the game winning goal in the 4-0 win over Philadelphia on January 1st. His 2nd goal on Saturday gave the Preds a 3-1 lead only 18 seconds after Shea Weber had scored to make it 2-1. After the game, Peter Laviolette called it the “biggest, singular response in a game all season long.”
While Forsberg is still the team’s best pure goal scorer, Smith continues to show why he is one of the most consistency offensive players for Nashville.
Five Quick Thoughts
- Tonight’s test against the Maple Leafs will be one of the toughest for the Preds all year. The Leafs are a dangerous offensive team. It may end up being a shoot out. Who on the Preds is going to step up and score some goals?
- I have a feeling Filip Forsberg comes back on this road trip. But if he doesn’t, how perfect would it be for him to come back on January 15th against the Capitals, the team that drafted him?
- Rocco Grimaldi should go up there as one of the best free agent pickups David Poile has ever made. What a find. He fits perfectly into the system and he’s been carrying the bottom six with his energy.
- Mattias Ekholm is on a .67 points per game pace, which is almost double his career average. And he’s only shooting 5.4%, so it’s not like he’s just riding a hot shooting pace. He’s been the best Preds blueliner this year, hands down.
- The power play still stinks. Only three power play goals in their last nine games, and only five in their last fifteen.
GIF Me That Good Stuff
When you are 5’9″, even hockey boards are a tough mountain to climb.
Someone get Juuse Saros a ladder. #Preds
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) January 6, 2019
Let’s Do That Hockey
Monday 1/7 – 6:00 PM: Predators @ Leafs [FS-TN]
Wednesday 1/9 – 7:00 PM: Predators @ Blackhawks [NBCSN]
Thursday 1/10 – 6:00 PM: Predators @ Blue Jackets [FS-TN]
Sunday 1/13 – 11:30 AM: Predators @ Hurricanes [FS-TN]
Is it time to start giving Juuse Saros more starts?
No, there is nothing wrong with Pekka Rinne. But in the interest of giving Rinne more rest, and thus saving his legs for the playoffs, it may be time to shift the starts in Saros’ favor.
Especially considered the way he’s been playing recently.
In his last four starts, Saros has gone 3-0-1 and stopped 103 of 106 shots for a .972 save percentage. Quite simply, he’s been fantastic. He won’t keep up that .972 save percentage, that would be impossible. But he’s more than capable of handling a few more starts here and there. According to Sean Tierney’s charts, Saros has been one of the better backups in the league, so it only makes sense.
The Predators have nine games until the All-Star break. Of those nine starts, six are on the road. In an ideal world, Juuse Saros starts at least four of those games, maybe even five. This would give Pekka Rinne a bit more rest before he heads off to San Jose for the All-Star game with Roman Josi.
— Featured image via Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports —