The Nashville Predators dominated the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday night, winning “Game 1” of this “playoff series” by a score of 5-2, and putting the Blackhawks a little bit further behind them in the Central Division standings.

Ten different Preds skaters put up points on the evening, with Matt Duchene, Calle Jarnkrok, Luke Kunin, Mattias Ekholm, and Tanner Jeannot scoring each of the goals.

Juuse Saros had 30 saves, continuing his impressive stretch of play, and winning his 16th game of the season.

But one of the biggest standouts of the night, and one that has continued to impress for the Nashville Predators, was the play of the 4th line.

Preds’ 4th line is defying expectations

Most 4th lines in hockey have a simple directive: win a defensive or neutral zone faceoff, get the puck out of the zone, put pressure on the opposing defense, and end the shift with an offensive zone whistle.

As I talked about on Buck Reising’s show on 104.5 The Zone today (segment starts at around 15 minute mark below), the Preds have found a 4th line that does all of that and much more.

 

The current configuration with Colton Sissons, Yakov Trenin, and Tanner Jeannot seems to be one of the best 4th lines they’ve ever had. Over the years, their revolving door of 4th lines haven’t impressed anyone too much, save for maybe the Austin Watson and Colton Sissons combination during the height of the Peter Laviolette era.

But this unit plays defense, has speed through the neutral zone, and can score as well.

They are physical, fast, skilled with the puck, smart, and have enough offensive instincts to generate offense like a 2nd or 3rd line.

Collectively, those three have played 45 minutes of even strength ice time. In that time, they’ve generated positive shot attempt shares, Fenwick shares, and expected goal shares, despite starting 80% of their shifts in the neutral and defensive zones.

In other words, while being only relied on for defensive shifts, they are churning out some offense on top of it. Most 4th lines are not great at this, so it’s impressive to watch.

Tanner Jeannot has been especially electric since replacing the injured Mathieu Olivier, who was himself a popular player among fans.

Jeannot has played in only six games this season, but has made a name for himself with his physical play and offensive abilities.

Best 4th line in franchise history?

It’s not easy to compare lines across years, but I went back to look at some of the combinations the Preds have trotted out on the 4th line over the last decade or so.

I don’t think any of these is better than the Sissons, Trenin, Jeannot line right now:

Most of them are either too old, too unskilled with the puck, or too slow. And some are all three.

You might have to go back to the 2010-11 Preds, with guys like Nick Spaling, Matt Halischuk, and Jordin Tootoo, but in reality those guys were more like 3rd liners. Those Predators teams just weren’t deep enough to ice four legitimate forward lines, so those three played a hybrid “bottom six” unit.

And the best part about the current 4th line configuration? Youth.

Colton Sissons is 27 years old, the cagey veteran, but still well shy of the “old” moniker. Yakov Trenin is only 24. Tanner Jeannot and Mathieu Olivier are only 23. All are on inexpensive contracts, and even when the Preds have to re-sign them, they should remain inexpensive.

— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —