Craig Smith's Hat Collection: NYI vs. NSH Recap

For David Poile, it's either a very good thing or a very bad thing that Craig Smith is hot at this moment in the season. Smith- a guy who is likely to be on the trade block in the coming week- lead the Preds to a 5-0 home win over the Islanders on Thursday after recording his first career hat trick.


In one way, Smith's recent hot hands will jack up his trade value, meaning Poile can get a heftier return from the team he ships him off to. On the other hand, losing a guy who's scored five goals in three games could go south very fast for the win-starved Preds. Either way, being thankful for Smith's sudden emergence is a safe call.

Thursday's win marked Juuse Saros' second shutout of the season, saving all 31 New York shots to put his record at 5-2-1 over his last eight starts. His save percentage- which sat at a dismal .886 in November- has steadily crawled back up to a .905 on the season. To put it as lightly as possible, the Preds need Saros to be at the top of his game if the playoffs are to remain an attainable goal. Pekka Rinne, bless his heart, is just miserable this year. In his last start, he allowed four goals on 17 Vancouver shots and was replaced by Saros at the top of the second period. Rinne is on track to record his worst career save percentage (.895) and goals against average (3.11). With a goal and two assists on the year, Rinne's offensive stats are his only numbers projected to set a career high (he finished with five points in 2011-12).

Now, back to Craig Smith. Smith and his linemates- Nick Bonino and Rocco Grimaldi- all recorded +4 ratings on the evening. The Preds' hottest, most trade-susceptible forward line accounted for four goals and two assists against the Islanders. Their collective production is terrific, but the three of them are effectively buoying the Preds' win column. It goes without saying that when your most movable assets are shouldering the entire team's offense, you're in trouble...

Credit: John Russell/Getty Images

...Which brings us to the most problematic elements of the Preds' 2019-20 season: Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, and Matt Duchene. The four of them recorded zero points and just five total shots against New York on Thursday.

Johansen and Duchene are the team's most expensive players (both making $8 million per year) and are churning out career-low stats. Johansen has just 11 goals (31 total points) in 56 games, and Duchene has 11 goals (35 total points) in 53 games. In the Preds' last five games, both centers have a single point apiece.

Arvidsson may as well be summering in Cabo already. The small, yet typically mighty winger hasn't recorded a point since Jan. 30 against New Jersey and hasn't found the back of the net since Jan. 27 against Toronto. In the Preds' last 10 games, Arvidsson is -6 on the ice.

Out of the four, Forsberg is actually doing the best- and even that's not saying much. In his last six games, Forsberg has just a single assist and a -5 rating.

All four of the Preds' top-end forwards primarily watched Monday's 6-2 beatdown in Vancouver from the bench, as John Hynes axed their TOI to 11 minutes each.

Running the 72-point, Barry Trotz-led Islanders aground with a 5-0 shutout is impressive, but not when you can't sustain that momentum.

The Preds will play a matinee game later today in St. Louis, taking on the division leaders and scum-of-the-earth Robert Bortuzzo in the first half of a home-and-home, back-to-back weekend. The Preds are 2-0 against the Blues this year and have an opportunity to tie, and possibly pass Winnipeg in the Central Division standings. The Preds are still about five points out of Wild Card positioning.

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