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Nashville Predators

One Player The Predators Should Get Into The Lineup For Game 4



Photo of Juuso Parssinen by John Russell/Nashville Predators

During the regular season, the Nashville Predators relied on forward Tommy Novak to be a driver of offense.

And he delivered, for the most part.

Novak’s 18 goals and 45 points in 71 games were new career bests, and his 15.9 shooting percentage led all Predators players who skated in 25 or more games.

But through the first three games of Nashville’s Stanley Cup Playoff series against the Vancouver Canucks, Novak has been mostly invisible. And the moments he has been noticeable have been for the wrong reasons.

Predators head coach Andrew Brunette admitted on Saturday he was contemplating make some lineup changes, and one has to think sitting Novak is one of the decisions he’s mulling over.

“There’s a couple [lineup] considerations,” Brunette said. “Some decisions to speak with my staff here after and make a decision.”

Novak has been pushed around and abused by a more physical Canucks lineup — he’s taken seven hits through three games, fourth-most on the team.

His ice time has suffered as a result of his ineffectiveness (he’s averaging 11:27 per game in the postseason compared to 14:12 during the regular season), and the rest of his offensive production has fallen by the wayside (he’s tallied just three shots on goal and two individual scoring chances for).

Novak’s faceoff win percentage (30%) is drastically lower than it was during the regular season (42.2%), as is his goals above expected (4.1 regular season, -0.2 postseason), expected goals per 60 (0.83 regular season, 0.28 postseason), goals per 60 (1.07 regular season, 0 postseason), points per 60 (2.68 regular season, 0 postseason) and on-ice goal differential (+15 regular season, -1 postseason).

“I think he’s waiting; this time of year you can’t wait for things,” Brunette said. “You’ve got to initiate puck contact. You wait, you look for soft ice, there is none.”

In the playoffs, Novak has been centering a line with Luke Evangelista and Mark Jankowski. And while he and Evangelista had great chemistry during the regular season, it could be argued that he’s actually holding the 22-year-old forward back now.

Evangelista has logged one goal and 10 shots through three games, and he might have more points and scoring chances if he had a center who could stay upright and feed him the puck more, which is why Brunette should consider swapping the 6-foot-1, 179-pound Novak with recently recalled Juuso Parssinen.

At 6-foot-3 and 212 pounds, Parssinen better equipped to not only absorb the damage the hulking Canucks defense (who’s average height and weight is 6-foot-4 and 214 pounds) is dishing out but send some back the other way — Parssinen doled out 62 hits to Novak’s five despite playing in 27 fewer regular-season games.

And some of Evangelista’s offensive numbers were actually better while playing with Parssinen than when he skated with Novak.

He had a higher goals percentage (81.8 with Parssinen, 59.6 with Novak), high-danger goals for percentage (75 with Parssinen, 68.2 with Novak), on-ice shooting percentage (12.86 with Parssinen, 7.87 with Novak) and PDO (109.3 to 99.7), plus the Predators goaltenders had a better on-ice save percentage with the Parssinen/Evangelista pair on the ice (96.4) than with Evangelista/Novak (91.8).

Vancouver’s size and physicality has clearly been an issue for Novak, and down 2-1 in the best-of-seven series, Nashville can’t wait for him to flip a switch. Parssinen does a lot of the same things Novak does only he’s two inches taller and 30 pounds heavier. Swapping Novak for Parssinen makes a lot of sense with the Predators’ backs up against the wall.

All stats via Natural Stat Trick and Money Puck.

Follow Michael Gallagher on X/Twitter @MGsports_

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