As amazing as it was to watch the Predators fight through their worst game of the playoffs and almost win the dang thing, it was just as disappointing to watch Corey Perry’s flukey goal somehow find its way into the net in overtime.
Filip Forsberg’s game tying goal with 34 seconds left might get lost in purgatory when we look back on this series, but it was still an incredible moment.
In the meantime, there’s a Game 5 to play. Here are some small fixes that could lead to a better result on Saturday night.
Meet Colton Sissons, Your New 2C
After Game 4, Peter Laviolette said that Mike Fisher left the game and is still being evaluated. There’s almost no way to read that as a good thing, so let’s assume for the time being that Fisher will be unavailable for at least Game 5.
Colton Sissons stepped into the 2C role (or something like it) late in the season when Mike Fisher missed a few games. In fact, he scored two goals against the Sharks in late March with Fisher out of the lineup, playing alongside Smith and Wilson.
The thing Sissons can bring is speed and pressure. He is more of a rangey center that likes to roam from wall to wall, while also occupying a presence in the middle of the ice. He has a decent shot—his career regular season shooting percentage of 16.3% is inflated no doubt by only having 80 shots—and can pass well. He’s only played 14 minutes per game in this series, so he should be relatively fresh.
The other option, Calle Jarnkrok, simply struggles too much in the offensive end to be a 2C. I love Calle, but he hasn’t been making enough happen offensively. I think Sissons can do a little bit more in that area. And if you pair Sissons with the right winger, he will do very well. Which brings me to...
Give Pontus Aberg Some Dang Speed To Work With
Aberg has been bringing it. He shows flashes of looking a bit like Kevin Fiala and a bit like Viktor Arvidsson, but with his own flair. He led the AHL in goal scoring for much of the year, finishing with 31 in 56 games. He can score goals if he is in the right position. He is a very smart player that reads the game well, excellent at out-thinking the defense and winning pucks with cunning rather than brute force.
Aberg’s problem has been his deployment. He was bootstrapped to Mike Fisher during the regular season, playing well over 100 minutes with Fisher at center and barely 10 minutes with anyone else. Then when the playoffs began, he started playing more with Sissons on the 4th line and his play improved. In just over 47 minutes together, they’ve combined for a 57.4% shot attempts for percentage, compared to 50.7% with Fisher.
The last time Aberg and Sissons were paired on a line for any length of time was during the Chicago series. Both players benefited, especially Sissons. Since Sissons might be your new 2C, give him a winger that can play at his speed while also giving Aberg someone that can play at his.
As for the other winger, go with either Craig Smith, Harry Zolnierczyk whichever is healthy enough to play.
If You Can’t Skate, You Can’t Play
I’m about tired of watching Vernon Fiddler and P.A. Parenteau skating around with rocks in their back pocket.
They are SLOW. They are STRUGGLING. They are NOT GOOD FOR THIS TEAM RIGHT NOW.
As weird as it is for me to say, Cody McLeod does not fit in this category. He is still slow, but he is at least playing decently. The other two? Sit them for as long as you can.
Think back on the Chicago series. The Predators’ speed is what made that series a laugher. The Predators brought speed on every line and it killed the Blackhawks. The Ducks are much better than the Hawks, but that doesn’t mean that speed can’t kill them. They willingly started Kevin Bieksa, for crying out loud. There are weaknesses in that lineup and speed is how you exploit them.
If we are assuming that Miikka Salomaki is not injured (which, given the secrecy, might be a big assumption), give him some time out there. He can bring all the physicality that anyone can (more, really) and he can actually skate. And if you pair him with a 4th line that actually makes some damn sense—Austin Watson at center, with some speed on the outside—then the 4th line could actually be decent.
Ideally, you’d love Sissons to center that line with Watty and Salo, but Sissons just got a promotion. So with those changes, your new lines could look like this:
Filip Forsberg - Ryan Johansen - Viktor Arvidsson
Pontus Aberg - Colton Sissons - Craig Smith/Harry Zolnierczyk
Colin Wilson - Calle Jarnkrok - James Neal
Cody McLeod - Austin Watson - Miikka Salomaki
Every line has speed, skill, a decent two-way game, and a goal scoring threat. This team looked too much like a one-line team on Thursday. This might help provide some depth and keep the Ducks honest.
All stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.