Despite dropping their second consecutive game by way of a shootout to start the condensed 48-game season, the Nashville Predators have lots of reason to be optimistic for the next 46 games. One of those reasons is the instant chemistry that has developed between Colin Wilson and Patric Hornqvist to start the season.
In each of the last two seasons, Wilson was benched in the first round of the playoffs due to his lack of consistency on both sides of the ice. Over the first two games, particularly on Monday night against the St. Louis Blues, Wilson was one of Nashville’s top players on both sides of the ice. If he is able to continue playing that way, that’s a good sign for the Predators moving forward.
“Colin is going to be a big factor for us. He is playing more of a complete game. The biggest thing with young players is they don’t recognize the importance of the details. It’s one side of the puck or the other. But he’s starting to recognize the details and therefore he’s earning the ice time for those details,” said Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz.
Wilson began his impressive night on the offensive side, scoring the first goal of the game on a gorgeous feed from Hornqvist. Wilson broke toward the middle of the ice while entering into the offensive zone, and Hornqvist was able to deliver a saucer pass perfectly onto his stick. Wilson fired a wrist shot that beat Jaroslav Halak and gave the Predators a 1-0 lead. The play was a perfect example of the chemistry that Wilson and Hornqvist have been able to develop early in the season.
“We’re starting to figure out where each other are going. We played with each other for quite a bit last year so we learned each other’s tendencies, and it was a great play by him to find me in the middle. It was a great sauce pass,” Wilson said.
Hornqvist and Wilson have a different set of skills that allow them to be a very effective tandem on the wing. Wilson’s skill-set and creativity allow him to make plays that tremendously benefit a gritty player like Hornqvist.
” The biggest thing with Colin is that he’s got a lot of deception in his game where he doesn’t telegraph where he’s putting the puck. He’s a big, strong kid who can take it to the net and that’s where Patric is. They complement each other because one guy can get the puck to the net and one guy is always at the net,” Trotz said.
Hornqvist had a three-point night, factoring in all of Nashville’s goals in their 4-3 shootout loss to the Blues. Hornqvist had one power play goal and two assists and was Nashville’s best offensive forward all night long. Monday night was just another typical game between the Predators and Blues. It was a hard-fought game that wasn’t decided in regulation, which is becoming common in this series. Four of the last five games between these two teams have been decided in the shootout.
“It’s always a battle anytime we play each other. I actually know a few guys on that team and we always talk about it. Every single time we play each other it’s a grinding game. Nobody’s giving each other too much space out there so it’s pretty consistent with shootouts,” Wilson said.
Nashville has collected two of a possible four points to open the season and will now hit the road for the next seven games. It’s not quite the start that they had in mind, but every point earned is going to be huge this season. Perhaps the biggest positive that has come from the first two games is that Wilson seems to finally be playing the complete game that Trotz wants, and he has shown that he can be dominant when doing that.
“As coaches, you want complete players,’ Trotz said. ‘You want them to really express themselves when they have the puck and do the right things, and defensively they have certain responsibilities that they have to execute. He’s realizing the importance of those details, and that’s a sign of maturity.”