The Nashville Predators did not start their quest for the Stanley Cup off on the right foot.
If the Preds want to avoid an 0-2 hole going as the series switches to Dallas on Monday night, they will need to make at least one key change.
Where Change Is Needed
The refrain from Peter Laviolette after the game was that the Preds weren’t fast enough. We can debate how helpful this piece of information is for the fans who paid money to see a sluggish effort in the 2nd and 3rd period, but that’s beside the point.
Laviolette is right. The Preds were the slower team in certain places. But where, and how do you fix it?
The top line generated almost three times as many chances as they allowed. You don’t break up Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson, and Filip Forsberg. They are fine.
The Preds’ 2nd line was better than you might think last night. Kyle Turris, Mikael Granlund, and Craig Smith generated more high danger chances than they allowed and they were decent in their transition game. I don’t think you need to replace anyone on that line just yet.
The 3rd line was relegated to its normal “defense first” duty and struggled all night. Nick Bonino, Colton Sissons, and Austin Watson were honestly quite bad in allowing shot attempts and dangerous chances. But in their role, given their zone start disadvantage, I don’t know if you can ask for much more than “just break even.” They didn’t break even last night, but they’ve been excellent for more than a few games, including last playoffs.
Keep the third line together for now.
I think the change has to come on the 4th line, and it’s an easy, logical switch.
While the 4th line wasn’t bad per se, they definitely didn’t have the speed factor that Laviolette talked about. Brian Boyle and Wayne Simmonds are big, but they take a while to get going. Individually, I think Boyle brings a bit more to the table than Simmonds, so I think it’s Simmonds who sits for this change.
So who do you replace Simmonds with?
Grimaldi has been skating since his injury in late March and is reportedly ready to go whenever needed. And if he’s in the lineup, the Preds get an instant speed boost.
Grimaldi was the story of the regular season for those watching the team closely. He brings speed on the forecheck, tough puck battles, and even some highlight reel goal scoring. He’s a poor man’s Viktor Arvidsson. Sometimes it’s even hard to tell them apart on the ice, if you aren’t paying close enough attention. Grimaldi makes “Arvy-like” plays on the regular.
If the Preds need some more speed in the lineup, you could do a lot worse than Grimaldi. But they also have Zac Rinaldo and Miikka Salomaki, who are also healthy. Both of those guys aren’t great with the puck, but they can play very physical hockey and do it with speed.
With this slight change in mind, here’s how I’d roll the forward lines on Saturday:
Forsberg – Johansen – Arvidsson
Granlund – Turris – Smith
Sissons – Bonino – Watson
Boyle – Jarnkrok – Grimaldi
With the added speed of Grimaldi, the Predators roll a little bit deeper and should be able to catch the Stars with some odd man rushes.
— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —