The Nashville Predators need to find consistency among their forward group. A way to accomplish this is by allowing players to build chemistry over time rather than shuffling line combos at every turn.
Nashville’s forward lines have been thrown into a blender all season long. Any instance of adversity is met with lineup changes that do not present themselves as organized. Instead, the changes resemble throwing options at a wall and hoping something sticks. The idea of trying to spark the offense makes sense, but overdoing it greatly reduces its effectiveness.
The first line is high powered. The partnership of Ryan Johansen and James Neal are displaying great chemistry, combining for 23 points since becoming teammates. The addition of Calle Jarnkrok on the left wing may have been the missing piece to the trio. He gives them versatility on both ends of the ice with good defensive responsibility and vision. Jarnkrok does not seem out of place and even chipped with a couple goals in recent games.
The second line blends three different talents together. Filip Forsberg is a premier top-six forward that can be the finisher or playmaker depending on the situation. The other wing is held by the human-firecracker Viktor Arvidsson. His speed and itch to shoot fit perfectly with the ultimate facilitator Mike Ribeiro centering the line.
With Colin Wilson back in the lineup, the Predators are rolling out arguably the best forward depth the team has ever iced. The now third line of Wilson-Fisher-Smith used to compete for second and even first line minutes in previous years.
The fourth line is one that could use a consistent tinkering because of the role they are asked to fill. Exchanging players on any given night for an energy boost can beneficial. More chemistry needs to be built due to the onus of scoring goals being more on the top three trios.
This is not an indictment on coach Peter Laviolette. Injuries have been a slight issue, and Johansen is still a recent addition. The line changes from night to night were unavoidable in a lot of cases. No one wants to change up lines on a regular basis.
For the first time, the pieces are in place as the season is winding down. Every team wants to be playing their best hockey heading into the postseason. That is achieved easier when each player is comfortable with their role on the team. If they are not concerned with who is playing alongside them every other shift, a focus on the task at hand is simple.
Are the Predators still going to endure scoring droughts? Of course. This is not an elite offensive team, but fighting through that adversity by playing with the same linemates grows chemistry at an exponential rate. Their chemistry needs to build quickly if they hope to overcome a tough remaining schedule, including a match tonight against the Dallas Stars.
Tough times may be ahead, but I am willing to bet keeping the lines together and allowing them to work through the struggle will only help the team on the other side and into the home stretch of the season.
Featured image courtesy of Joey Hinton.