Getting the O with the D
After the Nashville Predators dominated the St. Louis Blues 6-1 last night, it was obvious that the offense had found something that clicked and worked like a charm, and a major part of it may have been the defense.
The first goal of the night was a quick wrist shot from Ryan Ellis, who found himself deep in the zone by the side of the net during a power play. The offensive flurry that sparked Nick Spaling’s goal was started by Roman Josi’s initial shot on net. Martin Erat’s third period goal was also a rebound off of a defenseman’s shot. The Predator’s “Kleintastic” goal from the point drove goaltender Brian Elliot out by the middle of the second period. Without the defensive core’s offensive contributions, it would have been a lot closer game, with a lot fewer shots.
This is the second game in a row that the team has played with an extra defenseman. Even with Martin Erat back in the system, the coaching staff chose to scratch Nick Spal—err—Matt Halischuk instead of placing another defenseman back on the scratch list. It came to benefit the team when there were still 5 defensemen to rotate during a 5-on-3 advantage that saw Roman Josi and Shea Weber in the box together at the beginning of the third period. Beyond the notable offense, the defense also managed to block 18 shots and tried to help Pekka Rinne with the 32 shots on goal the Blues did make.
Maybe the Predators are on to something here. Maybe having two-way offense is overrated. Instead of having one superstar offensive defenseman a la Erik Karlsson, let’s have a two way defensive core. It isn’t unusual to have the Predators change defensemen to forwards when times deemed it. When one of the original Predators Scott Walker came from Vancouver in 1998, he was on the score sheets as a defenseman. For years, he was one of the most prominent forwards in the Predators franchise, and he even held the title of the highest scoring player in franchise history through 2004. Other former Predators such as Marek Zidlicky and Ville Koistenen were sometimes used as a forward. The late Wade Belak, known as an often scratched forward for the Predators, had even been a defenseman for years.
Enough with seven… why not make it eight?
Chill out, Canadians. We are talking defensemen, not hockey teams. If anyone is going to try it, it might as well be the Predators. It may be particularly beneficial during special teams. Have a 3 defensemen power play team: two who can safely cycle the point and one that can go deep to fight in the corners. Taking rebounds would be focused on, and scrappy rebound goals are still goals. If Trotz was at one point choosing Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi before Sergei Kostitsyn in shootouts, then why can’t these guys take some offensive time? Throw an extra D on all of these shorthand attempts, and there may be a shootout-style breakaway!
Of course, this seems a little bizarre. But scoring wins games. Annihilating teams with 5 goals in the first thirty minutes wins games. If that means playing 12 defensemen and eight forwards to get the scoring and defensive job done, so be it. It doesn’t matter who contributes it–as long as it gets two points in the end.