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Renegade Ramblings: The Fourth Line and Line Identity

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John Hynes has focused this season on establishing an identity for the team, but it goes farther than that.

Florida Panthers v Nashville Predators Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images

Shaun has been appearing on the Renegades of Puck radio show on WNSR this season. He’s taking some of his notes from his segments and putting them into writing. He’d like us to note that these are his opinions and you’re welcome to disagree with him.


The Fourth Line

We’ve all talked about “the fourth line” a lot this season. But it’s worth noting that the fourth line played first-line minutes at even strength on Saturday night. I know a lot of minutes went to other guys on the power play, but every period Saturday started with the Stampede line on the ice to come out and set the tone for period and the game.

I’ve said the game plan for this series is to wear the edges off of the Carolina Hurricanes, and there’s no one else that wears down the edges off of opposing teams like the guys on the fourth line. This Nashville Predators team has seen fourth-line players that come advertised with a “grit” label before, but why is this line seeing so much success where players like Cody McLeod have been relegated to making people smile in the locker room?

It’s a simple answer: every guy that plays on the line is playing a role.

For example, in a Russian language interview with Yakov Trenin, Trenin discussed how he was playing the style of hockey the team wanted him to play in Nashville. Trenin is a skilled player, but he’s also large and tough as nails and he’s leaning into that aspect of his game.

Nashville Predators v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images

Tanner Jeannot came from the AHL as the scoring leader on his team and had one of the highest point totals in the league. We’ve seen that scoring touch since his arrival in Nashville as well. These aren’t your typical McLeodian sandpaper guys, but skilled players that can play with an edge. They aren’t out there just to give the other lines a rest, but to set the tone and pace for the game. That simple shift in dynamic means that you have a line that can hurt the other team not just along the boards, but on the scoreboard as well.

NHL: MAY 08 Hurricanes at Predators Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Next Man Up

Last night, John Hynes mentioned the “next man up” mentality. He explained that the idea behind it wasn’t just about who was going to be the next guy to play, but who could come in and play to the identity of the line that had an opening. Hynes chooses the individual based on the role that needs to be filled on the ice. Line identity must be maintained.

Even last night, with the fourth line, Colton Sissons sat out and Michael McCarron filled his spot. I’m not saying McCarron and Sissons are the same type of player, because that’s not the case, but the style of hockey the fourth line is playing is what Coach Hynes is trying to maintain. McCarron came in and filled that role well by bringing a physical edge to the game while forechecking aggressively without the puck, but also getting to the net when his team did have the puck to try to make things happen.

This is the “next man up” concept as Hynes sees it. The team should maintain the same identity, regardless of who’s on the ice, and each individual line should maintain the same identity, regardless of who’s playing on it. If you thought the Predators looked like a hungry team last night, that’s because the identity of this team is a hungry team, willing to go hard in the corners and along the boards and make the opposition earn every inch of ice they gain.

If that’s what you see on the ice every night, you’ve got a team that’s truly hard to play against and is giving themselves the best chance to win each game. That’s what the Predators will need as they head into the postseason.