With Ryan Suter departing for richer pastures in Minnesota this past offseason and Nashville going into a new season with three of its seven defensemen on the roster having fewer than 140 NHL games worth of experience between them, it was easy to expect a significant drop-off from the stout defenses the Nashville Predators have had in recent years under Barry Trotz.
However, that has not been the case.
As of February 10, the Predators lead the league with a 1.82 goals-against average as well as being above the league average in regards to penalty killing and overall team plus-minus.
And of the seven defensemen who have dressed for the Predators this year, only one (Scott Hannan) has a negative plus-minus. In fact, five of the seven have a positive plus-minus (with Hal Gill possessing a "0" rating).
This suffocating defensive work has also had a knock on effect with the team's goaltenders, Pekka Rinne and Chris Mason, who both have a GAA lower than two and a save percentage well above .900 partly because of how the Preds defense has effectively limited its opponents' scoring opportunities.
The team's offensive production from the blue line has decreased significantly without Suter and with Shea Weber's struggles (one assist in 11 games) and the team, like any team during an NHL season, has suffered a few poor defensive games such as the 4-0 loss to Phoenix last month.
But at this time, Trotz has squeezed enough offense out of his defense (Kevin Klein has five points, Ryan Ellis four) and his team to propel them to a record of 5-2-4, good enough for fifth in the Western Conference, a record unattainable without the great play from the team's defensive corps so far this year.
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