If there’s been one thing consistent about the Nashville Predators this season, it’s the inconsistency of the forward lines.

Over the past few weeks, Peter Laviolette has been shuffling his forward lines around like crazy. It’s been somewhat maddening to watch and it’s left fans and media alike with virtually no idea what to expect from one period to the next.

This week, Laviolette jumbled around everyone except the top line, including both players who have been struggling, like Kyle Turris, and players who have been playing well, like Rocco Grimaldi.

For example, on Thursday, Kyle Turris was all set to play on the 4th line, where he started the game. But then by the end of the 1st, he was on the 2nd line with Mikael Granlund and Craig Smith.

Then in warmups in Winnipeg on Saturday, Turris was on the 4th line again… only to be moved up immediately to the 2nd line with Granlund and Smith again.

This is odd, right? Why the shuffling from practice to warmups to the game?

It’s understandable to move guys like Rocco Grimaldi up in the lineup when they have “jump.” Grimaldi, like Viktor Arvidsson, is a guy that you can plug anywhere and he will help create offense. Just skate fast, forecheck, and head to the net.

But Turris, along with players like Nick Bonino, Mikael Granlund, Colton Sissons, and Wayne Simmonds, are guys that need to build chemistry on a line in order to succeed. Have they had enough time to do that? All of those guys have seen significant changes in their linemates over the last few weeks.

This has to be affecting forward chemistry. Players need consistency around them. They need to know the tendencies of their linemates. They need to know their strengths and weaknesses. With so much moving around, and with so many new faces, it has to be difficult to get into rhythm.

Here’s more evidence. The Preds are among the league leaders in bench minors, including “too many men” calls.

It would be hard to attribute that unfortunate stat to anything other than the coaching staff. Shuffling lines so frequently can definitely cause confusion on the bench, thus leading to chaotic line changes.

I’ll say this: Laviolette tries out new combinations every year prior to the playoffs. He’s known for this. But this time around seems different because this team has never quite gotten into rhythm.

It certainly seems that the benefit of this line shuffling may be more trouble than it’s worth. While it may pay off in the end, right now it just looks like dart throwing from the coaching staff.

GIF Me That Good Stuff

More magic from the JOFA line, like this play from that win over the Kings, would go a long way to restoring confidence in the offense.

Five Quick Thoughts

  1. The constant line shuffling most certainly did not help in Saturday’s blowout loss to the Winnipeg Jets. Boy, talk about a complete embarrassment. The Preds looked like they didn’t belong on the ice with that team.
  2. On that note, it’s easy to blame Pekka Rinne for two of the five goals allowed on Saturday, but he really was the reason that game wasn’t a 10-0 shutout. He played well, save for two or three plays.
  3. The Central Division is as good as gone for the Preds. With only six games to play, the Preds have to make up four points, and the Jets have a game in hand. It would take an epic collapse from the Jets to allow the Preds to win the division.
  4. It’s odd to think that Ryan Ellis put up a career high in points this year. He’s been one of the most heavily criticized defensemen this year for his defensive play, but his point production has been solid. Still, he could put the puck in the net more.
  5. I’d like to see Juuse Saros in net in Minnesota on Monday and also in Pittsburgh on Friday. Give Pekka Rinne the week off.

Let’s Do That Hockey

Monday 3/25 – 7:00 PM: Predators @ Wild [NBCSN]

Friday 3/29 – 6:00 PM: Predators @ Penguins [FS-TN]

Saturday 3/30 – 7:00 PM: Predators vs. Blue Jackets [FS-TN]

Final Thought

It’s time to start preparing for the Predators to face the Blues in the first round, a matchup that very much favors St. Louis.

According to Sportsclubstats, the Predators have a 79.7 percent chance of facing St. Louis in the first round. They also have a 63 percent chance of having home ice advantage in the matchup.

So the most likely scenario for the Preds is hosting Games 1 and 2 against the Blues sometime after Tuesday April 9th. Holding serve at home against St. Louis (or whoever the Preds face in the first round) will be of utmost importance.

The Preds are 5-4-1 in their last 10 regular season games against the Blues, going back to April of 2017. The Preds also beat the Blues in six games during their series in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Even though the Preds came out on top in that playoff series, history suggests this matchup is a fairly even one. And more recent history suggests the Blues have an edge, having won four in a row against the Preds and outscoring them 16 to 8 in those games.

The Predators have managed to put themselves in comfortable playoff position late in the season. Despite some exceedingly pessimistic views from the fanbase, I do not think they will miss the playoffs, even after that awful performance in Winnipeg. But the Preds have only six games remaining to “right the ship” or “put it all together” and that’s not very much time. Another chance comes Monday in Minnesota.

— Featured image via James Carey Lauder/USA TODAY Sports —