Nashville Predators: John Hynes Being Forced to Get Creative with Lineup

Nashville Predators head coach John Hynes yells from the bench during the first period against the Carolina Hurricanes at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators head coach John Hynes yells from the bench during the first period against the Carolina Hurricanes at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

Every team deals with injuries to vital players of their lineup throughout the season, and Nashville Predators Head Coach John Hynes is dealing with a major one with Filip Forsberg out.

Forsberg is designated as week-to-week and now has officially been moved to injured reserve, per Predators PR:

Additionally, Nick Cousins is also heading to IR for an undisclosed reason that I’m sure we’ll learn more about in the coming days. For a team that’s already struggling to score (24th in goals/per game), this is really going to test the creativity for John Hynes and how he constructs the lines.

The week-to-week injury designation is always a mystery in hockey. Can the Predators remain competitive with these two major injury blows to their starting lineup?

Nashville Predators lineup takes a major blow without Forsberg and Cousins

Before Forsberg was lost, which happened a week ago against the Calgary Flames, the Predators were starting to build a lot of line chemistry. They managed to hold off the Vancouver Canucks on Friday with a thrilling 3-2 win, but then once again fell flat offensively in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday.

In comes Mathieu Olivier and Michael McCarron back up to the NHL roster from the Milwaukee Admirals, but neither one of them are going to bring you too much offensive upside. At this point, it’s more about maintaining the team’s identity and defensive playing style for Hynes.

This is going to put even more pressure on Juuse Saros, or David Rittich, to be near perfect in net. I just don’t see where the consistent offense is going to come from outside of Matt Duchene, Roman Josi, and Mikael Granlund.

Yes, your young rookie combination of Alexandre Carrier, Tanner Jeannot and Philip Tomasino are all capable of chipping in offensively, but it’s still going to be a tall order for this Predators team to produce enough offense to protect their goaltenders.

The one saving grace for the offense can hopefully be the revamped power play, however both Forsberg and Cousins were on that unit. Since Forsberg’s injury, the Predators have gone 3-for-9 and is up to 6th in the NHL in power play percentage.

Furthermore, the penalty kill is also going to have to be flawless, and tested regularly. I expect the Predators to keep taking a lot of penalties with this lineup full of aggressive style players and young players who are going to make mistakes that cause sloppy penalties.

The Predators are currently 7th in the NHL in penalties taken/per 60 minutes, while their penalty kill has room for improvement being in the bottom half of the league.

Hynes being forced to shuffle the lineup again

It’s going to take a lot of creativity from Hynes to shift this lineup around once again, but I really like the thought of keeping Tolvanen in the spot that Forsberg was playing in with Granlund and Duchene on the 2nd line.

The predators desperately need Tolvanen to wake up offensively and at least partially fill the scoring void left behind by Forsberg. I say keep giving him that chance to work through it.

As for Olivier, he can serve in a 4th line role just fine alongside Tommy Novak and Philip Tomasino. It will be interesting to see if McCarron takes a starting spot away from Rocco Grimaldi, although I wouldn’t agree with that switch at all as McCarron brings you virtually nothing offensively.

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This is what great teams have to navigate through. Injuries happen, and teams all around the league are dealing with critical ones right now. Can Hynes keep his team competitive and playing the right way that they want to play? This is a big test for him with Forsberg not in the lineup, and Cousins as well.

So far Hynes has delivered good enough results to keep the Predators in the thick of things and not have to worry about his seat getting hot, but it’s only been 12 games. This next stretch with Forsberg and Cousins possibly out for an extended amount of time will be a real test.

Two big division tilts against Dallas and St. Louis are important for the Nashville Predators to stay competitive in the Central Division race and not fall backward towards Arizona and Chicago.