The Nashville Predators are in freefall, having lost three straight and five out of their last six games. And after the decisions by John Hynes’ during last night’s 6-1 beatdown by the Tampa Bay Lightning, they have only themselves to blame.

The Preds had absolutely no answers for the Lightning last night, giving up three power play goals and getting overrun at both ends of the ice for most of the evening.

The loss came one night after the Preds called a players only meeting after a 4-1 loss to the Lightning. Roman Josi wasn’t clear about the contents of the meeting, but said the players needed “to find a way to get out of this.”

Well, it’s clear that last night they didn’t find a way out of it.

But one of the most frustrating parts of last night’s loss for Preds fans has to be in two inexplicable decisions made by John Hynes.

Eeli Tolvanen sits despite progress

Eeli Tolvanen has been making some good progress in his game. He’s not where he needs to be, but with every game he looks more and more confident. He even played on the power play in the 4-1 loss on Monday and managed to get a couple shots on the Tampa net.

It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s progress for Tolvanen, who really looked lost in his first few games with the Nashville Predators. He’s getting better with every shift, every game.

But then last night he gets healthy scratched prior to the game. Instead, Hynes recalls Sean Malone, a 25-year-old forward who is making only his 2nd NHL start ever. Malone played in place of Tolvanen and was a non factor in the loss.

Hynes’ explanation was not a good one, seemingly suggesting that Tolvanen was fatigued or needed the rest.

It’s hard to gauge what exactly Hynes meant here. Perhaps it was always his plan to sit Tolvanen on the 2nd half of back-to-backs this season. But for a growing, learning forward, that is almost a hindrance to his game. It’s taking two steps forward and two steps back, keeping him stagnant, stunting his growth.

Especially when you consider how much of a workhorse Tolvanen was for no fewer than four teams (KHL, World Juniors, NHL, Olympics) back when he was only 18 and 19 years old.

Tolvanen is a potential goal scoring star, but he needs playing time. He needs experience. He needs confidence. Benching him, particularly after he’s played well, will not give him those things.

Hynes breaks up Duchene line… again

The most egregious decision by John Hynes the last two games has been breaking up the Matt Duchene, Filip Forsberg, Mikael Granlund line.

The team’s most productive and dangerous offensive group is split up and then the team’s offense goes in the toilet?

Who could have predicted this?

With those three players on the ice, the Predators generate 72.5 shot attempts, 35.5 shots on goal, and 4.4 goals scored per sixty minutes of even strength ice time. Compare that to 49.9 shot attempts, 26.5 shots on goal, and 2.0 goals scored without all three on the ice.

The offense looked completely lost against Tampa, arguably the best defensive team in the league, and it could be because they didn’t have their top offensive line together.

And it wasn’t because of injury or COVID-19 or some other factor beyond the team’s control. It was simply a lineup decision by John Hynes.

The last time we saw lineup decisions this inexplicable by a Preds’ coach, Peter Laviolette was benching Kyle Turris for eight straight games. We all know how that story ended; neither Laviolette or Turris are still in Nashville.

Hynes struggling along with Preds

The Preds are scoring only 2.31 goals per game right now, which puts them 27th in the league. On the struggles by the offense so far, John Hynes doesn’t seem to have any answers.

“It’s been hit or miss with some of it,” Hynes said after the game. “I think there’s some games, you take for example tonight, I thought we had some really good looks five on five, I thought it was a very competitive game five on five, special teams were a big difference. Last night we didn’t generate any offense.”

“But a lot of it was the way that we played, we didn’t play with an urgency level or an intensity level offensively to be able to give ourselves opportunities, so when we do that, we do have opportunities to create.”

It’s that urgency level that has to worry Preds fans. How does the team not have an urgency to win in a shortened, condensed season like this? How are they coasting through some of these games, getting vastly outplayed, and just moving on to the next game?

The curious lineup decisions, like the ones made this week by John Hynes, are enough to make you concerned. But the not playing with urgency and the total lack of an answer for how to fix it from John Hynes are the things that truly concern Preds fans.

If the Nashville Predators are going to salvage anything out of this season (other than a high draft pick), John Hynes is going to need to figure out something that works. And stop making such foolhardy lineup decisions.

— Featured image via Steve Roberts/USA TODAY Sports —
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