After a long stretch of mediocre hockey through the early going of the season, the Nashville Predators are now riding a modest three-game winning streak and starting to find something offensively.
Despite a recent spark, the Predators still rank just 27th in the NHL in goal scoring, 28th in shots per game, and 29th in power play percentage. Baby steps, but I do think they’re showing gradual progress thanks to a new line combination.
It’s still a small sample size and we have to temper our expectations due to that, but Predators Head Coach John Hynes has appeared to have found something to stick with in his lineup. A forward line combination of core veterans Filip Forsberg and Mikael Granlund to go with the massive rookie Juuso Parssinen in the middle.
This line combination has 28 minutes of ice time together so far and racked up an impressive 66% Expected Goals Percentage in Thursday’s narrow win over the New York Islanders.
Check out how this line got the scoring going against the Islanders on Thursday:
Is Parssinen the missing link to wake this offense up? He certainly is looking the part through his first three NHL games with three goals and an assist and is coming off a three-point outing against the Islanders.
Parssinen looks extremely comfortable with his skating and has an imposing physical frame that gives him an edge over the typical rookie skater. He doesn’t have to worry about being pushed around at the NHL level even at this early stage in his career.
EXPECTED GOALS LEADERS FOR PREDS THROUGH 17 GAMES (PER MONEYPUCK.COM)
- Filip Forsberg- 7.5
- Ryan Johansen- 6
- Matt Duchene- 5.9
- Nino Niederreiter- 5
- Mikael Granlund- 4.3
What this does is unlock the potential for the rest of this lineup that was wildly inconsistent and untrustworthy before this three-game winning streak began.
The power play was a mess after being in the top-10 last season, and the team was going through stretches in games when they couldn’t muster up any offensive pressure while Juuse Saros got peppered on the other end. The end results were predictably bad.
As for Forsberg, he’s quietly back to a point-per-game pace this season with 17 points in 17 games. He’s starting to show us that power forward ability, just like Parssinen is mimicking early in his NHL career.
With Forsberg and Parssinen on the same line you have two highly powerful forwards who can free up space for Granlund. Suddenly you have three skaters who have a knack for effective skating and creating offensive space. You have to love it if you’re Hynes.
Granlund was originally seen as the top line center to Forsberg and Matt Duchene going into the 2022-23 campaign. After all, these three veterans had insane career years and Duchene set the franchise single season record for goals with 43.
However, you have to be willing to adapt in this league and Hynes is trying to do that before his squad falls too far back in the standings. This lineup switch that features the rookie Parssinen is looking like a wise move that many fans were begging for.
The ripple effect for the rest of the forward lines is everything is falling into place more clearly. I like the veteran line of Duchene, Ryan Johansen and Nino Niederreiter. You need at least one line in your top six that provides veteran stability, and the Predators have that now.
Mark Jankowski cannot be overlooked in all of this. He has been an excellent infusion into the bottom six. You will continue to see things shift down there which is normal, but Jankowski should remain a mainstay.
Putting together your lineup is literally like constructing a complex puzzle and you’re going to have some trial and error. Hopefully the Predators have suffered through their errors and the line of Forsberg, Parssinen and Granlund is the missing piece that helps everything else fall into place.
The Nashville Predators have the Tampa Bay Lightning up next to try to get the win streak to four games and win their sixth game of the last eight.
Against the much more offensively potent teams like the Lightning, it is paramount that the Predators avoid long slumps of getting next to nothing offensively. That happened in the 3rd period against the Islanders getting outshot 16-3, but they managed to pull out the win.
A pair of 2-1 wins over the New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild was thanks to lights out goaltending from Saros saving 66 of 68 shots over those two games. Parssinen also scored his first NHL goal in the matchup against the Rangers.
Hynes needs to roll with the same forward lines and allow the chemistry to keep building regardless of the result against the Lightning on Saturday. I think Parssinen will only keep getting better, as will Forsberg and Granlund alongside the rookie.