What separates this year from other Nashville Predators‘ seasons is that their top line has been one of the best. Filip Forsberg and Matt Duchene are both on pace for 40 goals, and whoever has played center has done a tremendous job of dishing them the puck.
The “herd line” has not been broken and is still one of the defining aspects of the Nashville Predators’ successful season, and even the fourth line has pitched in and made contributions of their own.
With the potent top line and depth production, this should be one of the best forward cores in their history, right?
It still might be, but what is holding them back from reaching their true potential is that the second line has been unable to perform up to expectations. By virtue of factors in and out of their control, they have been almost nonexistent and have not found their footing for any of the season.
Nashville Predators’ second line must produce in order to succeed in playoffs
Right now, the Predators’ second line consists of Luke Kunin, Mikael Granlund, and Eeli Tolvanen. This is what the line started off as, and it made sense considering that they finished last year strong, especially the former two.
But it has not stayed that way at all, and hardly even stayed together more than two weeks at a time. Besides the current three members, at various points, the line has consisted of Ryan Johansen, Philip Tomasino, and even Nick Cousins at times.
Head Coach John Hynes has done a noticeably better job of keeping his forward lines intact throughout the season, but this one has remained in a blender throughout, which is obviously unsustainable.
That is not to excuse the players whatsoever, and especially Kunin. While this line has undergone change after change during the season, he has stayed there and underperformed the entire time, which is disappointing for someone who ended last year so well.
And patience for Tolvanen is starting to dwindle as well, as in two years in the NHL, he has not come close to blossoming into the superstar everyone expected him to be after years of being a prospect.
But unlike Kunin, Tolvanen at least can make the excuse that he has been flopped from the second to fourth line all year, which would disrupt any player in the early stages of his career.
To Hynes’ credit, he has kept the line intact for the majority of the past three weeks, and they still have not done much.
Last game’s performance was good for them, but if they continue to struggle, it is reasonable to assume that they might see another change soon. It might be somewhat redundant at this point, there are adjustments he could make that he has not tried yet.
At some point, it may just be time to just say that Kunin has not earned his time in the top six and send him down to the fourth line. With him, Cousins, and Michael McCarron, they could play a lot like the herd line, and could be very effective with how they have played recently.
Ultimately, it is helpful for the development of players such as Tolvanen and Tomasino to play on the top six, and if Tomasino can do what he is doing on the fourth line, he can do that and more on the top six. Heck, he already did earlier in the year alongside Johansen, so it would not be a bad idea to give him another shot.
If this past Sunday is any indication, this line might be hitting their stride again and could be the extra boost this team needs in the playoffs. But if they cannot keep it up, they will be right back on thin ice.