Finding production in the most unlikely places
Nashville Predators NHLHS correspondent Tyler Davis looks at the success of the Nashville Predators in a very tough Western Conference and how they are doing it.
The Nashville Predators may not be your fantasy team’s first choice, but in reality, they are getting the job done.
Despite continuously fighting injuries, the Predators are 9-3 in their last 12 games while posting 60 points at the halfway point of the season, sitting in 4th place in a very tough Western conference. What stands out more than anything about this though is not where they are in the standings, but how they have gotten there. They have not done it with superstars, but with guys who come in and grind every night to make this team successful.
A major part of the Predators recent success has been winger Sergei Kostitsyn. Kostitsyn was acquired from the Montreal Canadiens in a deal for forward Dustin Boyd and goaltender Dan Ellis at the end of June. Kostitsyn, also known to most Predator fans as SK74, came to Nashville looking to make a fresh start after having a controversy filled stint in Montreal that saw him bounce back and forth between the Canadiens and the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL.
It took awhile for him to warm up due to a foot injury suffered during preseason scoring only two goals and and one assist in his first 19 games. However, he has finally found his role and is thriving in the Predators system. Kostitsyn is coming off of a recent 5 game goal streak as well as a 6 game point streak and has accumulated 25 points at the mid point of the season besting his previous season points total of 18. He and Colin Wilson are currently the teams second leading goal scorers behind Patric Hornqvist with 12.
Nick Spaling is another one that has stepped up and provided a spark this season. Spaling did not record his first NHL goal until December 13, 2010 against the New York Islanders. Since then, he has scored three goals, and has tallied two assists on the season as well. Spaling has really shown his strength as a member a penalty kill unit that ranks 5th in the NHL at 83.2%.
Jerred Smithson has really had to step up and prove himself this season after much speculation that he wouldn’t even make it out of training camp this summer. After a questionable training camp, Smithson has posted 9 points so far this season (five goals/four assists) in 49 games played. Smithson has also stepped up and been a vital part of the penalty kill unit. Because of his hard work this season, and the leadership he shows on and off the ice, Smithson was awarded with a new two-year, 1.2 million dollar contract extension with the Predators earlier this month.
Current mid-season changes have also helped. Winger Marek Svatos, who was claimed by Nashville off waivers on December 29, 2010 from the St. Louis Blues, has really begun to find his role on the team on a line consisting of David Legwand and Colin Wilson. Svatos has posted three points (one goal/two assists) in just seven games with the Predators.
Recent call ups Chris Mueller and Matt Halischuk have provided a spark for a fourth line that was lacking in offense. Halischuk has three points (one goal/two assists) in four games played, while Mueller has posted three assists in 12 games. They have been linemates with a struggling JP Dumont, who has begun to find his offensive spark again due to the speed and talent he has been charged with mentoring.
Another reason for their success is the play of goaltender Pekka Rinne. Despite battling a lower body injury to start the season and missing 11 games, Rinne has posted an overall record of 17-12-4. He has also posted a save percentage of .928 and goals against average of 2.11 per game. These numbers are good enough for second place in the NHL in both save % and GAA behind Boston’s Tim Thomas. Ask any Predators fan, and they will tell you that Rinne deserves the Vezina trophy this season. He has definitely put himself in the right place for consideration, and as long as he continues to play this way and post these numbers.
The Nashville Predators are not a team of superstars, and have had to find success in the most unlikely of places so far this season. It looks as though this will be the theme of the season for the pesky Predators who continue to claw their way through the Western conference and hopefully land themselves a spot in the playoffs.
NHLHS Nashville Predators Correspondent