As the Nashville Predators continue to run out of time to push for the playoffs, one of their best players over the last five years continues to put in a surprisingly invisible season.

I mean, where exactly has Viktor Arvidsson been all year?

If you’ve watched the Preds play in the last five years, there’s no way you’ve missed Arvidsson. He’s been one of the most visible players on the ice with his aggressive style of play, pressing opposing defenses and generating shots on net as soon as he steps on the ice. His energy and consistency every night is what led to David Poile signing him to a seven-year, $29 million contract back in 2017.

But this year? Arvidsson has been difficult to notice. He has career lows in goals per game, points per game, and time on ice, plus his underlying analytics such as shot attempt percentage and expected goals share have dropped. Most notably, his shots on goal per game rate has dropped by one whole shot from last year (3.36) to this year (2.31).

It’s maddening, but there could be a very simple explanation for this drop in production.

Don’t forget that Arvidsson missed 12 games with a lower body injury thanks to the reckless aggression of Robert Bortuzzo back in November. Arvidsson’s 17 games since returning from injury have been part of the reason for his declining numbers overall. Here’s a comparison of his production pre-injury and post-injury this season.

Viktor Arvidsson Nashville Predators
Viktor Arvidsson’s production this season via Hockey-Reference.com

It is likely that Arvidsson is still dealing with the after effects of the Bortuzzo incident. It’s also likely that he was rushed back into the lineup to help improve a team that was (and still is) struggling to gain playoff footing. I’m sure that whatever injury he sustained is healed, the Predators wouldn’t put him in harms way by playing him while injured, but recovering from such a dangerous attack probably takes a while.

Will Arvidsson be the same Arvidsson we’ve seen over the past five years down the stretch? It’s hard to say, but I will point this out: during a particularly ineffective game against Vegas on Saturday night, Viktor Arvidsson played only 14:30, his third lowest total of the season.

If he doesn’t start producing like he’s expected to, his ice time, along with the Nashville Predators’ playoff chances, may continue to fall.

Preds Quote of the Week

“What’s great about this is we kind of hit rock bottom, & now we’re coming on the way up. I know our best is yet to come. We’re working, & we should feel so great about these two wins, & bring that enthusiasm, that confidence & that swagger into Saturday.”

-Matt Duchene after Thursday’s win over New Jersey, two days before the Nashville Predators got shut out at home 3-0 to the Vegas Golden Knights.

GIF Me That Good Stuff

Speaking of Matt Duchene, he had a beautiful shootout goal to clinch the game against the Devils on Thursday.

Get Them Digits

  • 163 — Career goals for Filip Forsberg, tied with Martin Erat on the all-time Predators scoring list.
  • 1.00 — Points per game for Roman Josi, who has a solid chance to break the all-time Predators single season scoring record
  • 8 — playoff teams the Nashville Predators will face in their next 8 games
  • .909 — Pekka Rinne’s save percentage since January 1st
  • .911 — Juuse Saros’ save percentage since January 1st

Let’s Do That Hockey

  • Tuesday, February 4th @ Winnipeg Jets (7:00 PM; FS-TN)
  • Thursday, February 6th @ Calgary Flames (8:00 PM; FS-TN)
  • Saturday, February 8th @ Edmonton Oilers (6:00 PM; FS-TN)

Final Thought

Have Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros turned a corner?

This season’s struggles for the Predators have been about two things: leaky defense and poor goaltending. But since John Hynes came on board, we are starting to see some improvement in both areas.

The defense is still trying to find its way without Ryan Ellis. They’ve had to rely on guys like Jarred Tinordi and Yannick Weber for more than they’d probably like. The defense is probably never going to look like a finished product, considering all the changes over the past year or so, but they are at least focusing more on structure and discipline on the back end.

More encouraging perhaps is the goaltending. Since the Winter Classic debaucle, both goalies have been playing considerably better. They still aren’t at elite levels, or even playoff worthy levels, but they’ve been better. We have yet to see one goalie step up as the clear favorite to win the job down the stretch, which means it is probably still Pekka Rinne’s job to lose.

In the scheme of things, goaltending is the only thing that will save these Nashville Predators from missing the playoffs. If Pekka Rinne or Juuse Saros can carry the team in the last 31 games, which they’ve done before, the Preds may actually surprise everyone and make the playoffs. What they do once they get to the playoffs is another matter, but one hurdle at a time.

— Featured image via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports —

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