The Nashville Predators made a surprising move ahead of a 4-1 win over the San Jose Sharks in Game 3 Tuesday by scratching center Mike Ribeiro.
Ribeiro’s been the target of criticism these playoffs for untimely penalties and lack of scoring. Despite having 50 points in 81 regular season games, Ribeiro has just an assist through nine playoff games.
“It was just a lineup decision that I made,” said Predators head coach Peter Laviolette about the decision to bench Ribeiro.
To fill Ribeiro’s void in the lineup, Mike Fisher moved up to the second line and Pontus Aberg made his NHL debut. Fisher registered an assist on Colin Wilson’s goal at 6:55 of the third period.
The timing of scratching Ribeiro is odd. Ribeiro has improved in Games 1 and 2 against the Sharks from Nashville’s first round series versus the Anaheim Ducks. His faceoff win percentage of 57.1 percent is up from 28.3 percent last series, and he is shooting the puck more often.
If Laviolette wanted to send a message to Ribeiro, it may have been better served after Game 5 in Anaheim. Ribeiro took a slashing minor late in the third period, which led to a Ducks’ power-play goal and ultimately sealed a defeat for the Predators, putting them in an elimination-game scenario in Game 6.
But the decision to scratch Ribeiro now when he is beginning to get back to his game was surprising. Nevertheless, it worked in the Predators’ favor in Game 3, and Laviolette will have to make a decision of whether or not to go with the same lineup in Game 4 on Thursday.
After the four-goal offensive explosion, it would be unnecessary for Laviolette to further tinker with the lines. All of their key players are clicking. Filip Forsberg scored his first goal since Game 1 of the Anaheim series, James Neal and Shea Weber notched their first in four games and Wilson is on a four-game point streak.
Nashville’s been struggling offensively these playoffs, averaging 2.20 goals per game, the lowest among the eight remaining teams.
Don’t fix what is not broken.
Featured Image was provided by Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers