I guess it’s time for the obligatory “How did Filip Forsberg turn it around?” story.
I made reference to this when I wrote about the struggles of the 21-year-old winger during the early part of the season. The start of the 2015-16 NHL campaign wasn’t kind to Forsberg, but he’s broken out of his sophomore slump. The Swedish sniper has fired on all cylinders with 12 points (nine goals, three assists) in his last 12 games. This is a far cry from the player that scored only twice before Nov. 5.
Forsberg is part of the reason that the Nashville Predators are in a better place in the Western Conference playoff picture. The Preds hold on to the first wild card spot by three points over the Colorado Avalanche.
The play of the rejuvenated forward could make Nashville dangerous against any potential first-round opponent.
Finding Filip Forsberg
Forsberg’s faltering start was a microcosm of the trouble the top-six forwards had at the beginning of the season (well … anyone that wasn’t James Neal). The sophomore Swede went 17 games without scoring until breaking through on Nov. 27 in a loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.
I indicated in my earlier piece about him that he was still adjusting to the rigors of an 82-game NHL season, the playoffs and appearing for his native country in the 2015 IIHF World Championships. He was also putting himself in a place to score, but pucks weren’t going in the net.
Things were better in December as he got seven goals and five assists and scored four markers in January. However, Prince Filip has really fired it up in February.
He wasn’t scoring earlier in the season, but Forsberg was still contributing to the Predators in other ways. He was given more responsibility on the penalty kill and other defensive game situations. His speed makes him useful in other situations.
Last year, Forsberg only totaled 1 minute, 55 seconds of PK time for the entire season, but he now averages 1:45 on penalty kill time a game. He also continues to generate scoring chances and is one of the best in possession numbers. He’s quickly becoming a vital part of the Predators’ playoff push.
It seems that the hockey gods have rewarded him for his hustle and complete play with some goals. Forsberg only totaled 10 goals in his first 40 games, but has 13 notches in his last 21 contests. Since the beginning of last season, Nikita Kucherov is the only under-23 player with more goals than the high-scoring Swede.
The hat trick against the Toronto Maple Leafs certainly helps the young wing stay hot going into the stretch drive.
The hat trick was also a milestone for a few different reasons.
Filip Forsberg is first Predators player to score first three goals of a game & first NHL player to do so since…Nick Backstrom, via Elias.
— Adam Vingan (@AdamVingan) February 24, 2016
The Prince may not duplicate all of his gaudy offensive numbers from last season, but he’s broken out of that dreaded sophomore slump by doing the little things and having a complete game. The improved play also comes at the right time as he’s a restricted free agent at the end of the season.
There’s no doubt that he’ll warrant a significant pay raise, but Forsberg is ready to become the new face of the franchise.
Dan Mount is a Nashville Predators staff writer for The Hockey Writers. You can follow him on Twitter, @DanMountSports.