What the Ideal Nashville Predators Playoff Lineup Looks Like

Roman Josi #59 of the Nashville Predators Filip Forsberg (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Roman Josi #59 of the Nashville Predators Filip Forsberg (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images) /

If there ever is a completion to the 2019-20 season, the Nashville Predators have a great chance at being in the field. What’s their ideal lineup in Game 1?

After all of this time off due to the Covid-19 pandemic that has paused the entire sports world, it’s going to be challenging for the Nashville Predators and every other team to scramble to get back into game form.

That’s especially true if the NHL decides to start directly in the playoffs and skip the remainder of the regular season. Do you pick up where you left off, or do you treat it like a whole new season?

The last time the Predators were taking the ice nearly a month ago, they were starting to get some consistency with their line combinations. It wasn’t a blender like it was for much of the season, mostly under Peter Laviolette before being fired.

Here’s one of the last lineups before the season was paused, per Adam Vingan of the Athletic:

Can we assume that John Hynes would simply go back to that lineup? I don’t think it’s that simple if indeed they’re playing playoff hockey again late this summer, even into August.

If the Predators approach this the right way, they have the talent to start this thing fresh and make a lot of noise. Atone for their misfortunes during the regular season that left them on the playoff bubble.

My ideal lineup

I’m assuming that a lot of the lineup decisions will be made during the time that the teams will get to train and get their bodies back into game shape. With that said, this is what I’d go with with the understanding that every player comes back healthy and ready to go.

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Starting with the top line, I’m taking a bold stance here and putting Rocco Grimaldi on the top line. I know that means breaking up the very successful third line combination with Nick Bonino, but there’s new energy that’s needed on the top line.

The top line has been turbulent all season. There have been numerous combinations thrown together to try to find something that works.

It’s really anyone’s guess what will truly work in Game 1 of a playoff series.

In my mind, you reward the players who have delivered for you the most, and Grimaldi has earned that right. I want a player on the top line in Game 1 of playoff series who is going to bring top-notch energy and create scoring chances.

Grimaldi does that. He does that often and isn’t shy about charging up the ice and making a play. That’s what the Predators are going to need.

Who would I put with Grimaldi? I’m keeping Ryan Johansen on the top line at center. His production hasn’t been great, but I know he still can do what’s necessary to make the players around him more productive.

Johansen is proven in the playoffs with veteran experience and is who I want and trust to go out their on the top line of Game 1.

Then I’m going even more bold with the choice of Craig Smith. Much like Grimaldi, I want to reward players who have given it everything they have to keep the team afloat. Without these guys, the Predators are not in the current playoff picture. They’d be down there with the Blackhawks.

Sorting out the rest

The second line I’m staying with the par for the course method that most people agree on. I’m sticking with Mikael Granlund, Matt Duchene and Filip Forsberg.

When playing at their potential, it’s a lethal line of players that can be very productive.

Granlund was really hitting a surge after John Hynes took over, and Forsberg is an elite offensive player that can change a playoff series just on his own.

Duchene has been a letdown. No way to sugarcoat it, but he’s best off playing with highly-skilled players like Granlund and Forsberg. I’m keeping these guys intact on the second line.

Since I broke up the highly-efficient third line, who do I match with Bonino now? I’d go with Kyle Turris and Viktor Arvidsson.  Leave Bonino at center, and put Turris on the wing with Arvidsson.

This line can be just as productive of a line as having Smith and Grimaldi on it. Bonino is playing on a whole new level that has him playing well no matter who he is with.

Turris and Arvidsson have the playoff experience to be sleepers that really ignite on the third line. And Arvidsson just hasn’t been the same since coming back from injury, so I’d be cautious to putting him on the top line.

That leaves the fourth line, which would have Colin Blackwell and Colton Sissons for starters. That third and final spot comes down to Austin Watson, Yakov Trenin or Calle Jarnkrok.

I’m going with Jarnkrok here. He can be an up-and-down type of player, but on the fourth line he can do what’s necessary and contribute valuable ice time when called upon in a smaller role.

I just can’t turn to Watson after the disappointing season he’s had, and Trenin’s lack of experience makes me nervous about him as well, to no fault of his own. Trenin played very well after being called up and delivering to make a name for himself.

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That’s my lineup, with the exception of the defensive pairings which are pretty set. Here’s a refresher:

  1. Grimaldi/Johansen/Smith
  2. Granlund/Duchene/Forsberg
  3. Turris/Bonino/Arvidsson
  4. Blackwell/Sissons/Jarnkrok

This is based on do-or-die type of games in a playoff series. It’s not an exact science, but this lineup is balanced and puts the highest-performing players in positions to make the biggest impact.