As the Nashville Predators continue their quest for a playoff spot, certain players are stepping up their game.

Roman Josi, who is having a Norris Trophy finalist caliber season, leads the team in points and could possibly break the Preds’ single season scoring record. Filip Forsberg continues to be the greatest goal scoring threat for the Preds, though Nick Bonino is giving him a run for his money. There’s also the uptick in goaltending play as of late, which might ultimately be the reason the Preds make the playoffs.

Then there is Mikael Granlund, who is stepping up in a rather unusual way.

While he was known more for his playmaking ability while in Minnesota and in his first few months in Nashville, since the arrival of John Hynes, Granlund has been contributing more as a goal scorer than an assist machine.

He’s scored as many goals (6) under John Hynes as he did under Peter Laviolette this season, and he’s done it in 22 fewer games. He leads all Preds skaters in goals since Hynes took the helm, scoring two at even strength and four on special teams (three on the power play, one shorthanded).

How is he doing it? By going to the slot and firing off high danger chances.

Granlund currently has a higher rate of individual high danger attempts per hour (iHDCF/60) than he has in his career, and his rate has shot up even more under Hynes. Because of this, he is shooting over 12% this season, over two percentage points higher than his career average.

When you get more shots off from in tight, you tend to score more goals. Just ask Nick Bonino.

Whereas Granlund is usually seen below the goal crease and on the half wall looking for passes to wingers in the circle, over the past dozen games or so Granlund has been looking to shoot more and seeing positive results. His work on the power play has been exceptional, where he leads all Preds with three goals since Hynes arrived. And again, it’s the dangerous areas where he is making a difference: going to the front of the net and getting shots off that goalies have a harder time saving.

Take for example his power play goal in Calgary on Thursday. Watch as Granlund sets up in front of the net, taking a brief stop behind the net for a pass option, then returning to the net front for an easy tap in goal.

This is something Granlund was not doing under Laviolette. His role on the power play unit was again as a playmaker, mostly staying on the wing and looking to distribute, or staying below the goal crease and looking to feed Craig Smith or Viktor Arvidsson in the slot.

But his skills are perfect for shooting in close to the net, assuming he doesn’t get bodied out of the middle. He has excellent hands in close and can elevate the puck over goalie pads as good as anyone.

Playing in closer to the net is a small adjustment for Granlund, but obviously a successful one. As the Nashville Predators continue to pick up as many points as they can between now and April, Granlund will be a big part of that.

Preds Quote of the Week

“Not fun.”

John Hynes on what he was thinking when Patrik Laine was awarded a penalty shot during the Nashville Predators’ 2-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets.

GIF Me That Good Stuff

Saturday night’s loss in Edmonton had plenty of bad calls, including this one:

More on this development later…

Get Them Digits

  • .929 – Juuse Saros’ save percentage over his last six games. He’s built a 4-2-0 record in that time.
  • 300 – individual shot attempts by Roman Josi at even strength this season, nearly 100 more than his next teammate (Mattias Ekholm – 208). Josi is also only 29 attempts away from the NHL lead in the category (Max Pacioretty – 329).
  • 1102 – even strength minutes by Roman Josi, good for 5th in the league. He’s also played one fewer game than Thomas Chabot, who leads the NHL with 1232 minutes.
  • 21 – penalties drawn by Matt Duchene, which leads the Preds and ranks 6th in the NHL.

Let’s Do That Hockey

  • Monday, February 10th @ Vancouver Canucks (9:00 PM; FS-TN)
  • Thursday, February 13th vs New York Islanders (7:00 PM; FS-TN)
  • Saturday, February 15th @ St. Louis Blues (2:00 PM; FS-TN)
  • Sunday, February 16th vs St. Louis Blues (5:00 PM; NBCSN)

Final Thought

If you watched the Nashville Predators lose to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, you probably noticed one thing: terrible officiating.

Look, in reality, there are only a handful of games every year that are impacted that much by bad officiating. There are plenty of bad calls throughout the year. But only a few times does it get so bad that the outcome of the game is affected.

Saturday’s loss to the Oilers is definitely an example of that.

First there was a bogus hooking call on Dante Fabbro, which led to an Oilers power play goal late in the 2nd period. Then an incredulous embellishment call on Mikael Granlund cancelled out what should have been a Nashville power play with the game tied in the 3rd period. Then a weak interference call on Jarred Tinordi led to the go ahead goal by Leon Draisaitl in the 3rd period. Oh and throw in another weak call on Granlund, this time for tripping, to top it off.

The Predators had no chance against this officiating crew, losing 3-2, and missing out on two key points in the playoff race.

If you want to hear more thoughts on NHL officiating, check out this week’s Preds NashCast. Link and I have a lot to say about the subject in the “Dumbest Thing in Hockey Right Now” segment.

We also talk about John Hynes’ new look top six, and the improved play of Mikael Granlund and Juuse Saros. It’s worth a listen, check it out on Soundcloud (linked above), iTunes (link), and Spotify (link). We record every two weeks, with more frequent episodes to come as the Nashville Predators approach the playoffs.

— Stats via and Natural Stat Trick. Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —