It’s been three weeks since first line left winger Viktor Arvidsson was sidelined for 6-8 weeks with a broken thumb, two weeks since second line center Kyle Turris was placed on the IR with a mysterious injury, and as if it couldn’t get any worse, first line right winger Filip Forsberg is out for four to six weeks. They are among the most productive players on the Predators right now, and their absence leaves a bigger hole in the lineup than one might presume.
Arvidsson, The Motor
In spite of Arvidsson already missing four weeks of the NHL season, he scored 8 goals on 34 shots, and assisted Filip Forsberg twice, Craig Smith once, and Ryan Johansen once. The season has reached its adolescence, and low and behold, Arvidsson is still tied for second on the Predators in goals.
Arvidsson has created 16 high danger chances in the thirteen games he’s skated this year. He’s not only creating chances for his team- he’s capitalizing, too. 7 goals have come from mid to high danger areas, and the other one was an empty net goal against the Vegas Golden Knights. In the two times Nashville has played the New York Islanders this season, he scored the game winning goals. Not to mention, his signature between-the-legs move has officially been trademarked around the league.
Every single point this year from Arvidsson has come at even strength. 60% of his shots (when the Predators are at even strength) have made it either to the opposing goaltenders or past them. So naturally, it only makes sense that Arvidsson has already produced two multi-goal games and three multi-point games this year.
From a non-analytical standpoint, he is a huge reason the Predators win games. His hustle and efforts are never questioned, and it is no secret he motors the offense. Arvidsson gives Nashville an aggressive edge- when he is playing well, the entire team seems to play well. Always in front of the net, Arvidsson doesn’t cower down to the big defensemen or show fear to any goaltender. He’ll get knocked down, but he’ll get right back up. To attest to that, he had to lose his two front teeth, work through an undisclosed lower body injury, and break his thumb before he absolutely could not play anymore.
With Arvidsson, Nashville has posted a 10-3-0 record. Without him, Nashville has posted an 9-6-1 record.
If it isn’t obvious, he’s pretty crucial to the Predators’ success.
FUN FACT: Since Arvidsson joined the Predators in 2015, Nashville has played the San Jose Sharks nine times in the regular season. Arvidsson has registered 35 shots and scored 6 goals against San Jose’s goaltender Martin Jones in that four year span (Not including the OT goal from the 2015-2016 playoffs). It’s safe to say #33 likes to play against the Sharks.
The Predators’ most feared sniper will be out for 4-6 weeks with an upper body injury. Forsberg is Nashville’s leading goal scorer with 14 goals, and has been neck-and-neck with center Ryan Johansen in scoring points up until this point.
Forsberg is near the top of every single Nashville offensive category. As previously said, he has 14 goals (1st), 22 total points (2nd), five power play points (2nd), three power play goals (tied for first), a shorthanded goal (tied for 1st), 86 shots (3rd), +/- rating of +11 (4th), and two game winning goals (tied for first). He is also one of the four Predators to net a hat trick this year.
FUN FACT: He has netted at least one hat trick in his last four seasons, and holds the record for most Nashville Predator hat tricks of all time with 7.
Forsberg is a streaky player at heart, but has leveled out this year. He has not gone five games without scoring this year. Forsberg has failed to shoot the puck on net in only one game this year. Now he, like Arvidsson, will miss (possibly) a quarter of the season. It’s no secret Forsberg plays better with Arvidsson on the ice, but that does not take away from what he has done without him. He has seven points in spite of Arvidsson’s absence, including 2 goals against the San Jose Sharks.
He’s averaged a full minute more on the ice this year compared to his career’s TOI. Spending almost a third of the game on the ice, Forsberg is averaging 18:54 minutes- partially because he’s called upon at even strength, the man-advantage, and the penalty kill. Most people tend to overlook the little tricks and small ways he can give to the team, even when he doesn’t score. The puck control he possesses combined with his aggression and speed can frustrate opponents beyond measure.
To add to that, Forsberg possesses this uncanny ability to agitate his rivals on the ice. He loves to get under players’ skins with no intention of fighting, and an ear to ear grin appears on his face whenever he gets a response. There’s more than one reason to love Forsberg, and since he’s the most skilled shooter on the Predators, the team’s productivity will be taking a major hit.
Turris, The Stabilizer
A vital addition to the Predators in the 2017-2018 campaign, former Ottawa Senator center Kyle Turris, a fan favorite and renown scorer, has had an immediate impact. In 88 games with the Predators, he has scored 58 total points, including 22 on the man advantage. Losing Turris is just as heavy a blow as losing Arvidsson and Forsberg, given how he scored 16 points this year.
Turris provides a stabilizing force to the Predators’ offense, as he tallies points consistently and subtly. He has not gone two games this year without recording at least one point, and was the life of the otherwise dead power play for two games against the Los Angeles Kings and the Tampa Bay Lightning. His versatility comes into play when one observes whom he has assisted- 9 different players, which includes at least one skater on all four lines and one defenseman.
Turris gave Nashville their first OT winner after a miraculous comeback against the New Jersey Devils. Two noted goal scorers that game were also (you guessed it) Arvidsson and Forsberg.
Turris knows how to make his teammates look good. Once he was brought to Nashville, he was granted the second line center spot and found immediate chemistry with Craig Smith and Kevin Fiala, both of whom scored 20+ goals last year. Someone had to feed them the puck, right?
One downside to Turris is his face-off win percentage. He has won an underwhelming 49.09% of his face-offs while wearing a Predators jersey. Other than that, he has been an solid addition to the lineup. He has added balance the second line in most aspects, contributes both on the power play and at even strength, and finds ways to get the puck to his teammates consistently.
How Bad Is It?
The injured forwards combine for 51 total points, while the healthy six forwards (Johansen, Fiala, Smith) combine for 54 total points. That means the top six forwards for the Predators have put together 105 points already. Not bad, right? (don’t worry, I know you can do simple math- stay with me)
The ten forwards who have interchanged in the bottom six combine for a whopping 60 points. Of those ten forwards, four in particular stand out the most.
Calle Jarnkrok, Colton Sissons, Ryan Hartman, and Austin Watson have each been placed in the top left wing spot. Those specific forwards combine for 41 points, and three of them have netted a hat trick like Forsberg. Fiala has occupied the top left wing spot for most of Arvidsson’s tenure on the IR, and has caught fire as of late.
Nashville was playing slightly above mediocre without Arvidsson and Turris; now, without Forsberg, the Predators have to regroup. Some promising signs of life was the games against the Chicago Blackhawks and the Buffalo Sabres- Fiala tallied two goals and an assist, and Smith tallied a goal and two assists in those two games. Their matchup against Vancouver was less than ideal, but it just reiterated how devastating losing three huge forwards can truly be.
No matter how it happens or who rises to the challenge, the Predators have to find a way to impose their will upon whomever they play. Yes, injuries are apart of the game, but Nashville is no stranger to winning in spite of injuries. If they have to tread water, so be it. However, if their dominant play against Chicago and Buffalo can carry over until the injured forwards come back, Nashville will be in good shape until the big guns come back. If they play like they did against Vancouver, things might get a little bumpy for the Boys in Gold.
Stats up to date as of December 5, 2018