Eeli Tolvanen Can’t Save the Nashville Predators, But He Would Help

Nashville Predators right wing Eeli Tolvanen (28) skates toward the net during the third period against the Carolina Hurricanes at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators right wing Eeli Tolvanen (28) skates toward the net during the third period against the Carolina Hurricanes at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

Anyone who thinks Eeli Tolvanen can save the Nashville Predators is living in a fantasy world. But even with that, he still should absolutely be in the starting lineup for Game 2.

Nashville Predators Head Coach John Hynes took a lot of criticism for his lineup decisions in Game 1. The team looked slow and had very little offensive punch to it. The two goals the Predators did score were largely due to their physical play, which obviously needs to continue.

There were over 100 hits combined in Game 1 between the two teams, and there’s no reason to think that trend is going to reverse. The Predators need more speed and offensive minded players in the lineup to match the Carolina Hurricanes.

Nashville Predators have to match Carolina’s speed

I’ve said all along while preparing for this series that the Predators can only pull of this upset if they can be aggressive in their offensive play and mirror what Carolina likes to do in transition. There was really none of that in Game 1, and the result we got shouldn’t be too surprising.

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Shifting the focus to Tolvanen, he needs to be in most notably for the one obvious reason; his power play presence. The Predators are never going to muster up enough goal support for Juuse Saros if they can’t be successful on the power play.

Tolvanen and Forsberg seem to feed off each other when setting each other up for scoring chances, and at the very least they should take some pressure off Saros if Carolina is having to defend more in their own zone.

Forget even scoring on the power play in Game 1. The Predators couldn’t even get set up. It was hard to watch. and something drastically needs to change in this area or a sweep is a very realistic final outcome.

I’m seeing all of this talk of “Well Eeli Tolvanen just doesn’t have the playoff experience” or “maybe he’s not ready for the playoff pressure”. This kind of thinking is just nonsense. Even if he’s not ready, he has to get this experience if he’s truly the future of the franchise as a lethal scorer.

Yes, Tolvanen faded a bit down the stretch of the season after returning. He’s still just barely 22-years-old and his future remains bright. But leaving the guy on the bench in a playoff series where the team clearly needs more shooters and scorers is kind of a slap in the face to everything he’s built up to to get in this spot.

Nashville Predators GM David Poile had some interesting comments to ESPN’s 102.5 The Game regarding the lineup, and Tolvanen being one of the ones left out:

Tolvanen will help, but he’s not enough to change the series

Like I said at the very beginning, don’t expect Tolvanen to come in and be our savior. There’s a lot that needs adjusting for the Predators to win this series. But either way, Tolvanen has to be in this lineup, and preferably on the top line with Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg.

The bigger issue is the top veterans on this team all collectively had terrible showings at the worst time. Tolvanen can reignite the power play individually, but the highest-paid veterans on the team have to step up or once again, this series is going to be short and sweet. Well, only sweet for Carolina, but you get it.

I’m fully expecting Tolvanen back in the starting lineup and for Mathieu Olivier to come out. Not exactly an indictment on Olivier, but the Predators need more offensive firepower in this lineup. Brut physicality isn’t going to win this series.

There’s also talks about getting Rocco Grimaldi and his speed into the lineup as well. I’m not opposed to that, but then who do you take out? Someone who might not deserve it has to come out, but I would honestly entertain taking out Viktor Arvidsson to make this move.

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Tolvanen will provide some offensive punch, but it’s going to take an overall team commitment to being smart in transition, aggressive and avoid dumb penalties that smother their momentum.

Simply put, the Predators are up against a wall and are in danger of getting swept or blown out in five games if they lose tonight. Tolvanen should boost the offensive intensity some, but he’s just not enough to shift things too much. We need an overall shift in team play from top to bottom tonight.