Matt Duchene has only played six games for the Nashville Predators, but he’s already making a difference. The 28-year-old has already collected seven assists in just six games with the club.
He was the team’s big-money signing in the off-season with a seven-year, $56 million deal. It’s still early but he’s been a shot in the arm to the Predators’ offence.
Head coach Peter Laviolette decided to break up the beloved “JoFA” of Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson that has been piling up the points the last two seasons. Duchene has been on a line with Forsberg and Mikael Granlund while Johansen is anchoring a line with Craig Smith and Arvidsson flanking him.
Predators’ fans loved the JoFA line, but they’ll be fine with the lineup change if their big summer signing brings in those numbers.
Matt Duchene Starting Strong
Matt Duchene has always had loads of offensive potential, but it’s only netted him a pair of 70-point seasons. Last season was his first 30-goal season since the 2015-16 campaign with the Colorado Avalanche. He’s always been on the edge of breaking out as an offensive star, but results have been hit-and-miss.
The Haliburton, Ontario native looked right at home with the club in the opening game of the season when Nashville beat the Minnesota Wild, 5-2, on opening night. Duchene passed out three assists and provided assists on the first and game-tying goals for the Predators.
Duchene has already endeared himself to the “Smashville” crowd. He wore black just like country music star Johnny Cash. He loves country music and has embraced the community. The two-time All-Star is turning into a Brand Name in the Music City, something not lost on hockey oddsmakers such as ComeOn.
Nashville is now able to spread around its scorers instead of concentrating them on one line like they have in the past. The Predators run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017 was helped by secondary scoring. Teams couldn’t key in one line because players like Colton Sissons, Austin Watson and others would provide goals.
The Predators have put Duchene and Forsberg together and the results have been explosive so far. Forsberg already has two goals and the two are looking like they’ve played together for years.
The move is also trying to jumpstart Smith, who has been inconsistent at times with the club. Smith has been a 50-point scorer twice in his career, but there have been stretches where he’s disappeared from the scoresheet. Putting the Madison, Wis. native with those two dynamic forwards will hopefully get Smith into the scoring column more often.
Laviolette has also put Duchene with Forsberg and Johansen on the power play. That combination netted a power-play marker in Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. Duchene is a solid passer and can find players in tight spaces.
Nashville’s extra-man unit was anemic last season as it was dead-last with a 12.9-percent conversion rate. The Predators power-play woes extended to post-season as they were 0-for-15 in their first-round exit to the Dallas Stars. Duchene’s addition to the power play hopes to make that unit dangerous once again. Converting extra-man chances will be critical if Nashville has designs on making a deep run in the playoffs.
What it Means
It’s early but Duchene is already making the Predators’ offence deeper. He’s not scored for Nashville but that’s only a matter of time. He’s going to get plenty of chances with all the offensive talent that surrounds him.
The Predators took a big risk in dealing P.K. Subban to the New Jersey Devils to free up money for Duchene. However, the gamble seems to be paying off and Duchene’s continued production will make that risk only look more calculated.