The Nashville Predators need to find consistency among their forward group. A key to accomplishing that task can be found by allowing guys to build chemistry for long periods of time instead of shuffling line combos at every turn.
Nashville’s forward lines have been thrown into a blender all season long. Any sign of adversity is met with switching guys around in the lineup. Just throwing options at the wall and hoping something sticks. The thought process of trying to spark offense makes sense, but overdoing it greatly reduces its effectiveness
Everyone finally seems to be a good fit in the lineup they organized last game against the Capitals.
The first line is high powered with the partnership of Johansen and Neal displaying great chemistry by combining for 23 points since the blockbuster trade. The addition of 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 doesn’t seem out of place and even chipped with a couple goals in recent games.
The second line blends three different talents together. 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. Speed and an itch to shoot at every opportunity fits perfectly when the ultimate facilitator in Ribeiro is 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. That’s huge.
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 to for an energy boost can beneficial. Less chemistry needs to be built due to the onus of scoring goals being more on the top three trios.
This isn’t an indictment on Coach Laviolette. Injuries have been a slight issue, and Johansen is still a recent transaction. 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 now and into the postseason. That is much easier achieved when each player is comfortable with their role on the team. If they aren’t 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 isn’t an elite offensive team but fighting through that adversity by playing with the same linemates grows chemistry at an exponential rate.
The urge to switch up the lineup may be there after taking a tough defeat on home ice Tuesday. However, judging your effectiveness against the clear best team in the league is not a good strategy. Nashville is in the middle of a six game stretch of teams currently in playoff position. That’s not a welcoming sight.
Tough times may be ahead, but I’m 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.