With every goal he scores, Filip Forsberg grows his profile in the public consciousness of the hockey world.
On nine previous occasions this season, the 20-year-old rookie winger has displayed his dangerous wrist shot, though the flipping, almost scattered nature of his move defies the very description of wrist shot at times. But his 10th goal of the season, against Edmonton, may be his most memorable.
Forsberg put on a great show as a whirling dervish, fighting off the Oilers’ Taylor Hall in the process, before administering his strangely accurate shot to end the game in overtime and bringing the Predators a 1-0 win in front of a thanksgiving home crowd.
It is not just the moves that Forsberg is capable of that is shining a light on him from across the hockey landscape. It isn’t even the fact that, by the numbers, Forsberg is the best rookie in the NHL, by far. It is the pure energy he brings to the game, actual, physical energy that sustains him in a way that benefits his team undeniably.
Consider the circumstances of his game winner against the Oilers. Before putting the puck in the net, Forsberg had, maybe 15 seconds earlier, rang a puck off the post. That shot was a part of a wider scramble that Forsberg was a part of but didn’t dominate. Still, he was in the area the entire time, and when he got the puck again, was very late in his shift. Many players would have likely gone for a change, or at least done something rather ineffectual with the puck. Not Forsberg. He turned in circles, confused everybody but himself, and placed the puck right where he meant to.
It is a pretty fair judgment to say the Predators would have lost a game just like this one a year ago. The Oilers, a subpar team compared to the Predators, outshot Nashville 37-25. Although Forsberg’s goal proved ultimate, the goaltending of Pekka Rinne was invaluable as he earned his second shutout of the season.
Rinne missed most of last year with a bad hip, and Forsberg spent most of the year in the AHL, apparently developing what we see today. But the team’s mentality counts for just as much as the reemergence of Rinne and the emergence of Forsberg. The team would have given up several goals in a game like this last year, and things would have deteriorated from that point.
Not that the Predators can always win games like that, or would want to. Against Los Angeles Tuesday night, Nashville gutted out a victory against a Kings team that took every inch the measure of its opponent. Against Florida Saturday night, the Predators put 50 shots on goal, gave up a two-goal lead in the last minute of regulation, and still gained a win on the back of Forsberg’s shootout goal.
The fact that the team can win all three games in such divergent fashion is worth some confidence, and that Forsberg is such a part of it speaks to the genuine opportunity the young man has to create something special for himself and for the Predators.
Alex is a native of Nashville, Tennessee. He has four years of reporting experience, both sports and news, mostly in newspapers. He holds a M.S. from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, in New York City, and a B.S. in journalism from Middle Tennessee State University. He is a former news and sports editor at the MTSU student paper, Sidelines, and interned at the Tennessean. Raised in a football family, he left the reservation and found an obsession in hockey.