Nashville Predators: The New Third Line Stepped Up

(Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Nashville Predators took on the defending champs last night and saw a lot from their line-up. Especially their new and improved third line.

The night started off with an air of mystery as Kyle Turris stepped into the line-up. Turris joining meant that Calle Jarnkrok and Colton Sissons no longer had to play second and third line roles. Instead, Jarnkrok headlined the third line while Sissons was relegated to the fourth. The center already depth looks impressive, and that’s without Nick Bonino in the line-up.

The third line was originally Miikka Salomaki-Calle Jarnkrok-Scott Hartnell, a strong third line by any standard in the NHL. It was a fun combination of youthful exuberance and veteran savvy. The only issue is that Hartnell suffered an injury about 10 minutes into the first. So his spot was platooned by a few players, including Filip Forsberg, Austin Watson, and Colton Sissons. Double shifting Forsberg ended pretty quickly and it fell upon Sissons and Watson fill the void. Although Watson was the clear favorite, especially as the game started to conclude.

This new and improved third line of Salomaki-Jarnkrok-Watson feasted upon the Penguins’ bottom six. They were a sparkplug for the entire team.

The simple stats

To start this off, every stat you see is at five on five.

The easiest place to determine impact is the scoreboard, and the third line made their impact known. The line had one goal, one assist, five shots, and 10 hits to their names. Quite the impact in a spread out effort by the Nashville Predators.

A lot of you probably know how I’ve relentlessly defended Jarnkrok and the choice to keep him over James Neal. So I have to mention how sweet that goal was. The pass from Turris was pretty nice but the catch, toe drag and snipe was excellent. Even better was that Jarnkrok saw that Tristan Jarry was cheating over to the left side of the net. And so Jarnkrok toe dragged and changed the angle of his stick so he could get a better shot off at the more open side of the net.

The rest of the game was back and forth in a way. Peter Laviolette would send out the third line in the defensive zone, on average 78.8% of the time, and then they would end their shifts in the offensive zone. As the great Jeff Marek said, “puck comes in, puck comes out”. They were rarely hemmed in their own zone for more than 30 seconds at a time. The line did a great job of winning the face-off and then executing a breakout. They cut through the forecheck like swiss cheese through most of the night. Even though they spent a third of their time against Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang.

The advanced stats

Jarnkrok and whatever line he’s on rarely produce good possession scores because of their quality of competition. Tonight was closer to average, but the context hadn’t changed.  Like I said, Jarnkrok and company played the Crosby or Malkin line for over 66% of the third lines’ minutes and put up surprising stats. The line put up a 30.68% Corsi against Crosby, but held him to no goals and only one high danger chance against. That’s pretty stellar when you consider how Crosby ran roughshod over the Nashville Predators in the playoffs.

It was a completely different story when the third line took on Evgeni Malkin. Malkin looked frustrated all night and it showed as the third line owned a 65.48% Corsi against him. Better yet, they didn’t allow Malkin to create a single high danger chance and instead recorded one against him. Overall, the line put together an average  Corsi of 50.3%, but an elite Fenwick of 83.3%. Great numbers for a line that was “punching above its’ weight.”

The fact is, the third line created two high danger chances and only gave up one. If they can keep that rate up, they’ll be one of the best third lines in the NHL, which will come in handy during the playoffs.

The future

I’m not a doctor but it looked like Hartnell’s skate caught a rut and his knee twisted awkwardly. Knee injuries are never good and can often take a few weeks to come back from, but that’s purely speculation.

I think that the new third line of Salomaki-Jarnkrok-Watson should stay together regardless of Hartnell. They’re so responsible in their own end and you can tell that Laviolette trusts them to eat tough minutes. Plus the team looks so much better now that Jarnkrok and company are freeing up Johansen and Turris, rather than Johansen and Sissons. No offense to Sissons.

Next: Gaudreau and Aberg sent to Milwaukee

The third line was by all accounts and statistics, excellent. I hope to see them suppress the Capitals on Tuesday.