How Should the Nashville Predators Manage their Starting Lineup for Playoffs?

Once the playoffs start, the Predators will be able to call up more players and expand their roster. But will they keep the band together that has played so well since mid-February?
Apr 9, 2024; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators left wing Filip Forsberg (9) passes the
Apr 9, 2024; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators left wing Filip Forsberg (9) passes the / Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

After Tuesday's overtime thriller against the Winnipeg Jets, the Nashville Predators got what they needed to ensure their return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2024.

Many agree that the Predators under first-year Head Coach Andrew Brunette and first-year General Manager Barry Trotz are way ahead of schedule in their retool. They never wanted to call it an actual "rebuild", and it wasn't when you think about adding players like Ryan O'Reillya and Luke Schenn in the 2023 offseason, and also what they did at the 2024 trade deadline.

The Predators are now going to their 16th NHL postseason since joining the NHL as an expansion team in 1998. Not too shabby of a track record in terms of regular season sustainability. The problem is, fans want deep playoff runs and not to be the first round punching bag agian.

How Will Brunette Manage the Predators' Playoff Lineup?

To keep this train moving forward and to break the first round curse the Predators have been under since 2018, they're going to need to be wise with their playoff starting lineup and the players they take as extras. There are no roster limits in the playoffs, so you can essentially take as many skaters as you want and make switches from game to game.

Do we expect Brunette do anything out of the ordinary with the startling lineup, or will he basically stick with what has worked over the past couple of months?

Let's first address the Predators' defensive corps. It's deep, as you probably know. It's solid enough on all three pairings to compete with anyone in the playoffs. It's balanced with offensive talent from Roman Josi and Alexandre Carrier, veteran leadership with Ryan McDonagh, and physical with Jeremy Lauzon and Luke Schenn.

The outlier is Dante Fabbro. He has played in one game since March 10. Stastney has taken over the starting role, and just got his second career NHL goal in the comeback attempt against the Jets. He keeps showing strong improvement, and has more offensive upside than Fabbro, but surrenders the postseason experience that Fabbro brings.


Stastney and Fabbro play different sides, so they're not in direct competition, but I can't see Brunette plugging Fabbro back in for the playoffs unless an injury occurs. He probably goes with this current starting defensive corps for Game 1 of the playoffs.

Fabbro may get some playing time in the final three regular season games to shake some rust off and see where his game is at, and also possibly give some rest to some guys who may be banged up.

Will Brunette Go With Glass or Beauvillier in Game 1?

Another decision that will get plenty of attention and scrutiny from the fanbase will be between Anthony Beauvillier and Cody Glass. Glass was a healthy scratch for much of March, while Beauvillier looked to get more comfortable with his new team after being acquired at the trade deadline.

Glass got back into the starting lineup on March 28 and tallied two assists and played in every game during the brief three-game losing streak. Since then, Beauvillier has been back in the starting lineup and scored his first goal with the Predators on April 4 against the Blues.

This will be a tough call for Brunette, but one thing you have to put in Beauvillier's favor here is playoff experience. Beauvillier had back to back postseason campaigns with the Islanders putting up 13 points and 14 points. He has 49 games of postseason experience.

Glass did play in two playoff games for Nashville in 2022, and he has shown steady improvement throughout this current season. The problem is, he hasn't gotten consistent playing time for whatever reason and the pressure would be enormous on him if he were to play in Game 1.

I can see this being a situation where Brunette alternates the players from game to game and goes with the hot hand after Game 2. Brunette seems to favor Beauvillier for whatever reason.

The line combinations should be pretty set. Brunette has done an outstanding job at keep things consistent and not shaking things up for no reason. It has allowed this team to grow faster and build that solid chemistry for playoff hockey.

There was a pretty big change to the second line in the last game, moving Mark Jankowski up to second line duties. Who saw that coming last October before the season started? Will Jankowski stay up there with Colton Sissons and Jason Zucker. That makes you top two lines all veteran led, and your young talent in the bottom six.

You're not going to break up Luke Evangelista and Tommy Novak. Those two have undeniable chemistry and comfort together. They can provide bonus offense from the third line in the playoffs. Evangelista in particular has been ramping up his level of play lately, including 10 shots on goal against the Jets on Tuesday.

And of course your fourth line has been incredibly valuable all season. The tone setters of Michael McCarron, Kiefer Sherwood and Cole Smith. This line might as well be etched in stone. It's not going anywhere for the playoffs.

So overall, there's not a lot of uncertainty with the playoff lineup. It comes down to Beauvillier or Glass, and does Fabbro find his way into the starting lineup over Stastney.

The 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs are scheduled to begin on April 20. Who the Predators will play in the first round is still up in the air, with Dallas, Vancouver, Colorado and Edmonton all possible.