Rads Returns; Now What To Do With The Lines?
Tuesday, 03.20.2012 / 11:48 PM
It has come to pass – the day has dawned… Alexander Radulov is returning to the NHL and the Nashville Predators.
In what has to be one of the more convoluted contract issues in hockey history, Radulov has cleared his final hurdle to come back to Nashville and push the Predators into the playoffs as they chase the ultimate prize: The Stanley Cup.
For some time now people have said that the knock on the Preds is a lack of scoring. While that hasn’t necessarily been the case this year with the team ranking in or near the top-10 in goals for all season long, Radulov’s return certainly gives the Predators one more incredibly dangerous offensive weapon – one who is a game-changer with deadly offensive instincts.
Barry Trotz has said of Radulov that he’s a guy who loves to score goals and finds pure joy in doing it. The real test will be finding a line to work him in on and developing the chemistry. Against Anaheim on Sunday Trotz did move Andrei Kostitsyn in with Craig Smith and Brandon Yip (and I must say I actually enjoyed watching that line play). Gabriel Bourque drove the Hornqvist/ Legwand combo well too once he was on the wing there, helping generate the first goal of the game for Nashville. Those lines remained intact tonight and the Bourque/Hornqvist/Legwand trio were probably the best line for either team. I don’t know if you dare disrupt Mike Fisher, Marty Erat and Sergei Kostitsyn, but for sake of the argument let’s throw numbers in the blender and hit “frappe”… which oddly enough is French for “to hit”.
So maybe, just maybe, we see something like this:
Why am I moving Smith up with the brothers? Largely due to his play in the third period with AK the other night, and plus he has shown real ability to drive this team offensively early on and might benefit tremendously from being coupled with those two. The down side is that Smith is still working on his faceoff technique and this line may not start with puck possession a whole lot at first.
I liked the 27-11-57 combo so much they just have to stay together.
This does leave the issue of working a guy like Gaustad back into the lineup when healthy, and Colin Wilson has played center before although has played more wing. Certainly you could put Gaustad with the Kostitsyns to give defensive responsibility a boost on that line and also help them start with the puck more often. Smith has been on the fourth line much of the time recently, and it would be intriguing to see him with Yip, Halischuk orWilson to see if there is a chemistry that develops.
Adding the scoring threat of Radulov to the lineup now really gives Nashville three lines that can score and makes this team an incredible threat. Plus, you’re adding another sniper to the power play, which has already shown it can be effective this year and win games.
What I know everyone will be looking to see is how well and how quickly he adapts to the Predators, don’t expect miracles the first game (although that would be nice). This is a guy who figures to be fighting off jet lag in a big way and has to reset his body clock by almost half a day. For those who have never traveled internationally, they say the body takes one day to adjust for every hour lost or gained. If you alter your sleep patterns you can help fight this, but making noon into midnight is still going to bear some weight. Give him a little time, and also consider that he hasn’t played in a game situation in a few weeks. All things considered, however, one would expect it shouldn’t be too hard to “catch the moving train” for someone considered one of the world’s best players.
So get your 47 jerseys ready Nashville – he’s coming back and this team’s chances to win a Stanley Cup have never looked so good!