When in doubt, put all of your most expensive players on a line together, right? That seemed to be the thought process for Nashville Predators Head Coach John Hynes in the 2021 playoffs, and now it appears to be the plan going into the 2021-22 regular season.
Bac in May during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Hynes was yet again struggling to construct consistent lines and called upon Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, and Matt Duchene to provide a spark for the Predators.
And they did just that at the very start. In their first game together, all three of them scored goals and got several prime scoring chances in front of the net.
From then on, however, only Johansen would score goals twice in the remaining three games, one of which was on the power play.
We know the skill that all three of them possess. This can be an opportunity to see how much better Duchene is with more skilled players around him, but how confident should we truly be in this possible top line heading into the 2021-2022 season?
Nashville Predators have their top line, but is it good enough?
Forsberg, Johansen, and Duchene are all good forwards and they complement each other well.
Johansen spending much of his time in front of the net allows Duchene to play as more of a distributor, which also allows Forsberg to become the sniper of the line.
This trio is a good fit, but ultimately, do either of them really scare anyone? Not really.
When you look at the elite forwards in the NHL such as Auston Matthews, Brad Marchand, Nikita Kucherov, David Pastrnak, and Mark Stone, the Nashville Predators possible top line trio aren’t even close to that class. None of them have a strength that stands out as the aforementioned other forwards do.
So just how much are they capable of? Yes they will score their fair share of goals, as they did in the playoff series last year, but even then, let’s be realistic about those goals.
The first one was off of a stretch pass by Mattias Ekholm that put Forsberg on a breakaway. The second was off of a faceoff win when Johansen tipped the puck while parked in front of the net.
The third one was off of another stretch pass from Roman Josi that Duchene beautifully located in the air and took on a breakaway. And the fourth was off of a net-front scramble that Alex Nedeljkovic really should have frozen.
Johansen would score another goal on the power play in Game 6, but what do these goals truly mean? They show that when they did not get lucky opportunities, this trio was by and large, very easy to stop.
It showed, as the Hurricanes heavily neutralized them in the final three games of the series. This honestly feels like another “JOFA line” situation in which the trio is good, but are they truly good enough to beat the most skilled teams? Probably not.
With that said, Hynes seems to be very pleased and confident in what this trio is showing in training camp and in their preseason action, per NashvillePredators.com.
Reviving their careers and proving the critics wrong
You have to respect the promise they showed and who knows in the playoffs and in this preseason. All of these guys are skilled and maybe they turn in career years to create the perfect storm for the Predators.
Duchene and Johansen are trying to revive their careers, while Forsberg is entering the prime of his career and trying to take that next step into a more elite level of players. Forsberg could also be trade bait if things don’t change, judging by his comments recently regarding a contract extension.
The hope is that these three players are focused and hungry to change the negative perception and lead this predominantly young group of forwards that the Predators will be starting on opening night against the Seattle Kraken on October 14.
However, it would be wise to use caution when setting your expectations with this expected top line of Forsberg, Johansen and Duchene.