Despite a quiet trade deadline day last week, the Nashville Predators have been making some noise recently.
In fact, they reeled off their first three game winning streak in three months over the last week, including a shootout victory over the Blue Jackets, a regulation win over the Senators, and a dramatic come from behind win over the Flames. Though it ended with a controversial loss to the Avalanche on Saturday, wherein a game tying goal by the Preds was wiped off due to a goaltender interference call, the Preds have won six of their last nine games.
They also find themselves in a playoff spot for the first time in the John Hynes era, an impressive feat considering where this team was merely a month ago.
While it’s true that the Preds have really only been consistent at being inconsistent this season, there’s one player whose consistency has been on display for a couple years now. That would be Rocco Grimaldi, who was rewarded with a two-year, $4 million contract last Monday.
The Grimaldi signing was the only notable transaction on trade deadline day, but it should not be overlooked. in fact, I’d argue Grimaldi’s new contract (which doesn’t kick in until next season) could be the best value on the team in quite some time.
His goal and assist numbers don’t stand out at first glance. He only has 10 goals and 20 assists for the Preds this season, which ranks 9th on a team that isn’t lighting the world on fire with offense. But it’s his underlying numbers that are the most impressive.
Here’s where Rocco Grimaldi ranks on the #Preds among players with at least 1,000 even strength minutes since 2018 (18 total skaters):
CF% – 2nd
FF% – 2nd
SF% – 2nd
SCF% – 6th
xGF% – 5th
— Alex Daugherty (@AlexDaugherty1) March 2, 2020
Grimaldi has been a top five player on the Preds when it comes to several key underlying metrics, including shot attempt share and expected goals share. He’s done this with only moderate offensive zone start numbers (i.e., he’s not being sheltered or only given easy assignments) and with very low on ice shooting rates.
There’s very few, if any, $1 million skaters in the NHL that are as impactful as Rocco Grimaldi. Even when his salary doubles to $2 million over the next two years, his value will still be very high, especially if those on ice shooting rates improve.
So while the Nashville Predators were not very active on trade deadline day, that doesn’t mean they didn’t make moves to improve their team over the next couple years. Grimaldi is as solid and consistent a player for the Preds as anyone and he deserved the pay raise.
Preds Quote of the Week
“That’s hockey somtimes…”
-Mikael Granlund on his late game tying goal and overtime winning goal against the Flames on Thursday. The understatement of the season so far?
— Alex Daugherty (@AlexDaugherty1) February 28, 2020
GIF Me That Good Stuff
Speaking of, here is that late game tying goal against Calgary. Mikael Granlund gets the puck over the line with ONE TENTH of a second remaining.
Unreal finish to this one. #Preds tie it up at the buzzer.
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) February 28, 2020
Get Them Digits
- 4 – the number of players in NHL history that have scored the game tying goal in the final 10 seconds of a game and then also scored the game winner in overtime. Mikael Granlund joined that list on Thursday.
- 10 – the number of double-digit scorers for the Preds so far this season, which equals last season’s total. Three players (Kyle Turris, Colton Sissons, and Mattias Ekholm) are within two goals of reaching double-digits.
- 14 – the number of games without a goal for Filip Forsberg. He hasn’t scored since January 30th.
- 15 – the number of games the Nashville Predators will play in March, the most of any month this season. This includes 8 games against Central Division opponents and 4 back-to-backs.
Let’s Do That Hockey
- Monday, March 2nd vs Edmonton Oilers (7:00 PM; FS-TN)
- Tuesday, March 3rd @ Minnesota Wild (7:00 PM; FS-TN)
- Thursday, March 5th vs Dallas Stars (7:00 PM; FS-TN)
- Saturday, March 7th @ Dallas Stars (1:00 PM; FS-TN)
I opened this column talking about Rocco Grimaldi and his value to the Nashville Predators after signing a two-year contract extension. It’s enjoyable to watch relative unknowns leap from obscurity and contribute to this team in such a meaningful way. Every time it happens (Viktor Arvidsson, Kevin Fiala, Rocco Grimaldi) you can’t help but smile.
So is Colin Blackwell the next in line?
Given his pace through his first 32 games, logging three goals and seven assists, he’s certainly in good company.
In their first 32 games with the #Preds:
Arvidsson: 5 points (3g, 2a)
Fiala: 8 points (6g, 2a)
Grimaldi: 8 points (4g, 4a)
Blackwell: 10 points (3g, 7a)
— Alex Daugherty (@AlexDaugherty1) March 2, 2020
Blackwell’s game is impossible not to like. Not only does he bring the speed and aggression of someone like Viktor Arvidsson, he brings the playmaking ability of someone like Kevin Fiala. I doubt he turns into what Fiala has become with the Minnesota Wild (surprise, he’s really good now!), but Blackwell’s vision has been very impressive to watch.
Just look at the play he makes on this goal by Colton Sissons against the Calgary Flames last week.
He wins the puck behind the Calgary net, skates into space, gets his head up, sees a speeding Sissons heading for the net, and puts the pass right on his tape. Blackwell placed the pass perfectly, well away from the defender and out of reach from the Calgary netminder.
Ironically, Blackwell joined the Nashville Predators at the same time Rocco Grimaldi did, back in the summer of 2018. Neither signing made major headlines at the time. Both players were largely unproven in the NHL and seemed more like depth acquisitions.
But now both players are becoming every day regulars. Grimaldi is a spark plug that sees plenty of action in the top six. While Blackwell has been a mainstay on the bottom line, playing mostly with Colton Sissons and Austin Watson, he’s also been on the “top line” with Ryan Johansen recently. Obviously John Hynes sees some Arvidsson-like similarities with Blackwell by electing to pair him up with Johansen.
Is Blackwell the new Grimaldi?
And on that note, if Blackwell ends up making as much of an impact as Grimaldi has over the last two seasons, as a pending free agent this summer, could this mean he also gets a pay raise soon?
— Stats with Hockey Reference and Natural Stat Trick. Featured image via Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY Sports —