Third Pairing: Jeremy Lauzon – Tyson Barrie
There is hardly anything that is definite on defense besides Josi and McDonagh in their spots, but this pairing is definitely one that is most up in the air. I think the one that we can all but pencil in here is Lauzon, since he is a left-handed defenseman, and both Barrie and Schenn are right-handed.
And it is not like that is the only reason Lauzon should stay in the lineup. He has not been anything amazing, but he has been solid and overall done pretty well to neutralize offense. That is about what you expect from your third pairing defenseman, so there is no reason why his spot should be revoked.
As for Barrie, it is another situation where just on paper, it makes sense to keep him on a pairing with Lauzon due to the nature of his game. Barrie is a primarily offensive defenseman, but he has done a reasonable job in his own end as well this year, and a guy like him who can skate effectively at all areas of the ice is good to have alongside Lauzon, who is a purely physical player.
While they have not been as good as McDonagh and Carrier, MoneyPuck suggests that they too have played well for a third pairing. Of those that have played 100 or more minutes, they are 24th in Expected Goals Against per 60 minutes, and being top-30 in that regard is not bad at all for their role on the team.
Offensively, they have been nothing special, but that is ok because once again, their role on the team does not demand much of an offensive presence. Plus, you cannot look at me or anyone with a straight face and say that Schenn over Barrie would boost their offensive output in the slightest.
If the Predators are in a game in which they really want to up their physical presence and be more of a pest, I could see Schenn coming in for Barrie from time to time. And maybe Brunette will make that switch fairly often at first when Schenn returns just to see what he has in him, which you could hardly fault him for.
But Barrie being paired with Lauzon offers much more upside when you account for both ends of the ice, so for the sake of making definite decisions, Barrie should remain on the third pairing.