With the return of a healthy Predators lineup, Coach Barry Trotz has a full roster at his disposal. In the wake of getting Legwand back on the ice a shuffling of lines has to take place, but at what cost to the already producing line combinations.
Once Legwand returned from an upper-body injury, one of the Predators top producing lines of Wilson/Smith/Hornqvist was broken up with Legwand replacing the pivot and Craig Smith being knocked down to third and fourth line duties. With Legwand being tied for highest point total of the Predators (with Craig Smith) it makes sense that Coach Trotz would want that kind of production back in the lineup on the top lines to produce the same results, but what about the loss of chemistry or the building of new lines in Legwand’s absence?
Here’s a look at how Smith and Co. fared while Legwand was on the shelf over the course of 4 games:
Craig Smith – 2 Goals, 1 Assist, 3 Points
Colin Wilson – 2 Goals, 1 Assist, 3 Points
Patric Hornqvist – 0 Goals, 2 Assists, 2 Points
The Predators record over these four games was 3-0-1. In the two games with David Legwand back in the lineup centering the top line with Hornqvist and Wilson, the Predators were 0-1-1 with an embarrassing loss to the Edmonton Oilers where Legwand had zero shots on goal and an overtime loss to Columbus that saw Legwand, Smith, and Wilson each get one point.
In both games, the offense of the Predators looked stagnant without a lot of jump or offensive zone pressure. The lineup of Hornqvist/Smith/Wilson provided the speed and reckless/relentless shots on net that would keep the opposing team’s top defensive line on the ice for large chucks of time. This attention from the other team’s shutdown lines provided the opportunity for Erat/Fisher/Kostitsyn to tilt the ice the Predator’s direction and influence mismatches to score on the rush or on any number of defensive mistakes.
For a decent amount of games, the Predators were able to roll out two formidable scoring lines and when teams would shut down one line the other line would pounce, much like the mascot would suggest, and take full advantage of their scoring chances. In games where the Predators are consistently being out-shot it is imperative for lines to maintain chemistry and the attention to be focused on the lines that are working.
We want to hear from you. What would your line-ups look like with a fully healthy Predators squad? Did Trotz make the right decision to automatically place Legwand back into the top lines? Should the lines have been kept intact until there was reason to reshuffle?