The Nashville Predators, despite averaging around 2.1 goals per game, are staying afloat as they continue a West Coast road swing.
In a losing effort, the Preds managed to go toe-to-toe with the NHL's top team, San Jose, but allowed a feeding frenzy in the final minute. Sharks' defenseman Dan Boyle sneaked a harmless wrister through Dan Ellis' legs, cementing a result at the HP Pavilion.
It is exactly the issue of defensemen scoring that this article seeks to elucidate. Everyone seems to be talking about getting production from the back end these days. Of course, in Nashville's case, scoring is needed from the forwards too, but including tonight's action 11 of Nashville's 33 goals have been by D-men.
Leading the charge is Nashville's All-Star Shea Weber. He returned to the lineup more quickly than expected after taking a blocked shot off his foot. Five of the 11 goals scored by the Nashville defense have come from his howitzer at the point.
Also contributing two goals apiece are fellow Salmon Arm, B.C. native Cody Franson, and Weber's sometime linemate Ryan Suter. Both of these youngsters know their team needs them to shoot the puck just as much as they need a good poke check on the back end, sometimes. Kevin Klein, and newcomer Francis Bouillon, have each lit the lamp once as well.
It would be tempting to chalk up the scoring threat of a player such as Weber to the overwhelming speed of his shot, and while that is a big component, head coach Barry Trotz thinks there is more than meets the eye:
He really helps us on the attack...You just can't just attack with three guys anymore. It's got to be four guys up the ice. You need the fourth attacker; it is important to help break down coverage. And in Weber's case, he's got the big shot, but he can get up there in a hurry.
What's next for Nashville's young blueliners? They played well in the Shark Tank despite not picking up two points. Holding San Jose to 29 shots, and only one power play (no goals) is very disciplined, indeed. Not to be too critical of Dan Ellis, but at least two of the four goals were very stoppable, not occurring on huge defensive breakdowns.
Nashville's defense corps should continue to contribute in the coming games. The Preds return from their road trip after a visit to the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on Thursday. From there, they should have more of their roster healthy, and perhaps can generate offense from forwards, defense, and special teams. We will certainly be staying tuned with visits from Eastern Conference foes such as Les Habitants, and the New Jersey Devils, as well as these same San Jose Sharks within the coming week.