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Hockey Thoughts A Brewin’: Here’s How The Predators Can Win Game 4



Photo of Jeremy Lauzon, left, and Filip Forsberg by John Russell/Nashville Predators

Prior to the Nashville Predators’ Game 3 matchup with the Vancouver Canucks, I discussed the issues the Predators experienced in Games 1 and 2, reaching the conclusion (despite returning home with the series tied 1-1) that Nashville’s current state of play was unsustainable to win the series.

Game 3’s 2-1 loss seemed to prove this point as the Predators appeared out of sorts other than the first five and final five minutes of the game.

For the Predators to win Game 4 and head back to Vancouver with a tied series, I would make a few lineup changes to further facilitate the type of game head coach Andrew Brunette wants to play because, right now, the Canucks are dictating every aspect of the series and imposing their will across the ice.

The goal shouldn’t be to out-physical the Canucks but rather to take the hits and continue driving forward. Nashville’s hallmark fast tempo and controlled pace-of-play has been non-existent so far this postseason.

In the midst of an intense playoff series, it’s difficult to rock the boat too much from a lineup perspective. However, making slight changes can make a monumental difference to open up the game, provide space to those who have been unable to find it, and penetrate the Canucks’ defensive fortress created by giants Nikita Zadorov, Tyler Myers, and Carson Soucy.

Tommy Novak, for example, does not need to be benched; he needs help finding space to work from. This is no time for a regular-season reset. This is a crucial Game 4.

Here’s my proposal: I’d go with seven defensemen to control the game’s pace from the backend and consistently keep the puck moving up ice. The Predators are built from the defensive zone out, using quick zone exits and stretch passes to wear the opposition down. They’ve been prevented from playing this kind of game so far.

The injury to Spencer Stastney is unfortunate, but it does provide an opportunity for the next man up. Nashville Hockey Now‘s Michael Gallagher wrote there’s a clear answer to Stastney’s replacement. My analysis differs slightly.

My first proposed lineup change would be to play Dante Fabbro in Stastney’s spot.

Fabbro hasn’t played much over the last month due to injury and then getting scratched, but his chemistry with captain Roman Josi is well-established and their defensive abilities together have proven to be successful. Josi needs to have the opportunity to open up a bit and take control of the game.

Next, I’d slide Juuso Parssinen in for Anthony Beauvillier.

Beauvillier has been fine, but sometimes it’s simply a numbers game, and while I appreciate his playoff experience and what he brings to the game, new looks are sometimes needed to shake things up. Parssinen provides that bigger presence with undeniable skill. It’s a what-is-needed decision, not an indictment of Beauvillier.

Parssinen has been waiting for this opportunity since being sent to the Milwaukee Admirals on Jan. 23. He would be a great compliment to Novak and provide him with more space and better looks in the offensive zone. Of course, Novak needs to step up as well, but two things can be true.

I’d place Novak between Parssinen and Luke Evangelista. Parssinen’s size and skill will give Novak more room to operate, and Evangelista has been on a mission this postseason (one goal, 10 shots on goal), so I’m not worried about him struggling to find looks. You could think about switching Parssinen with Novak, but I don’t think Parssinen is ready to step into a top center role quite yet. 

Finally, I’d sit forward Mark Jankowski in favor of defenseman Tyson Barrie.

This third option may be a bit controversial because it would knock the Predators down to 11 forwards in favor of seven defenders, but as I previously mentioned, the Predators are built from the backend. Rolling with seven defensemen would provide more flexibility to dictate matchups and adjust to different looks. Barrie’s offensive prowess would be a much-needed boost for a struggling power-play unit as well.

I wouldn’t focus on placing Barrie with any certain defensive partner but rather have him rotate. Similar to scratching Beauvillier, the decision to go defense-heavy isn’t an indictment of Jankowski but rather the Predators trying to better exploit the numbers game and better matchup with Vancouver.

As for the forward lineup, I would rotate keep the Cole Smith, Michael McCarron and Kiefer Sherwood line together and rotate all three as the third winger on the Colton Sissons-Jason Zucker line. 

Proposed Lineup


Filip Forsberg – Ryan O’Reilly – Gustav Nyquist

Parssinen – Novak – Evangelista

Zucker – Sissons – (Smith, McCarron, Sherwood)

Smith – McCarron – Sherwood


Roman Josi – Fabbro

Jeremy Lauzon – Alex Carrier

Ryan McDonagh – Luke Schenn



Juuse Saros

To win Game 4, the Predators need to control the pace and make Vancouver play more their speed, and this pace starts with bolstering the defensive rotation and creating new matchups, and where better to test this strategy out than at home with the advantage of the last change. 

I can also appreciate the notion of possibly inserting Cody Glass into the lineup. He’s a solid player and he brings a bit of size, but I don’t believe he would be a needle mover in this type of series. Puck drop for Game 4 is at 4 p.m. CT at Bridgestone Arena. 

Follow Clay Brewer on Twitter/X: @ClayBrewer10

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