Four games in to the season, an interesting, and troubling, trend has emerged for the Nashville Predators. All six goals scored have come from the number one line with Jason Arnott netting three goals, Patric Hornqvist two, and Steve Sullivan one. No other Predator has been able to find the back of the net, and this team must have contributions from the other lines if they want to be successful this season and get back to the playoffs.
Once you dig a little deeper in to the statistics of the first four games, one of the stats that jumps out is that the second line of David Legwand, Martin Erat, and Mike Santorelli have not only been held off the score sheet, but the two most experienced players, Legwand and Erat, are not shooting the puck. Through four games, Erat has eight shots on goal while Legwand has six. Rookie Mike Santorelli, the other winger on this line, has eleven shots on goal. By contrast, fourth line center Marcel Goc has nearly as many shots on goal (5) as either. Now, I'm not a coach, but it seems to me that your probability of scoring would increase substantially the more you shoot the puck.
Both Legwand and Erat were signed to new contracts last season that made them the highest paid players on the roster, and both of these forwards chew up minutes each night. Erat leads all forwards on the squad, averaging 19:59 of ice time; Legwand is fourth averaging 18:46 minutes. The problem for the offensively challenged Predators is that two of the top forwards on the team are on the ice for a significant amount of time and are not shooting the puck and generating quality scoring chances. This second line has to become productive with this much time on the ice.
Both Legwand and Erat possess solid offensive skills. Legwand posted 42 points (20G-22A) last year while Erat netted 50 points (17G-33A) before both had their seasons cut short due to injury. They have proven the capability of being productive and Legwand, 29, and Erat, 28, are entering the prime of their hockey careers.
Four games in doesn't necessarily dictate how the season will develop, but it is going to be critical that these two players get pucks to the net and score. I'm not down on either player, but frankly, both have shown a tendency to disappear for stretches at a time. This cannot happen now, and it is time for their play to be commensurate with their compensation.
It was known that goal scoring would be at a premium for this team, as has often been the case for the Predators. Goals by committee has been the way this team has operated- successfully- in the past. It is the way they can be successful now. As head Coach Barry Trotz said at the outset of the season, for this team to return to the playoffs, David Legwand and Marty Erat have to step up their game and have a very strong season. They are an integral part of the goal scoring "committee" of the Predators. Time to tell them the meeting has started and their presence is requested.