Game 7 is not the time to make lineup changes. No coach ever wants to risk a winner-take-all game by disrupting a roster that had developed chemistry.
There are no such worries for Milwaukee Admirals coach Lane Lambert heading into Tuesday night’s contest. Presented with Nashville’s elimination from the playoffs on Monday night, all of sudden Lambert has three “black aces” available for insertion into his team’s lineup. Overall, Houston has been the better team in the West Division finals, but Milwaukee’s addition of NHL playoff tested Jonathon Blum, Matt Halischuk and Blake Geoffrion, might be the tipping point to turn the series back in favor of the Admirals.
The biggest difference for Milwaukee tonight will be Blum, hands down. Though he stagnated at times with the Admirals this season, Blum emerged as a top-four defender in the NHL during his short time with the Nashville Predators. Blum found himself an effective role with the Predators as a transition defender who can log minutes and contribute on the power play. After this spring, Blum will not be back in the AHL anytime soon. If Blum is paired with a solid stay at home defender in Milwaukee, he should be electric.
Adding Matt Halischuk will give Lambert another offensive dimension for his team. Halischuk has well-deserved reputation as a clutch goal scorer. He can score gritty goals around the crease and provide highlight variety plays (see Preds OT-winner from Game 2 vs. Vancouver). Houston’s biggest advantage in this series has been their offense, but the addition of Halischuk narrows that gap significantly.
The addition of Geoffrion is the hardest one to judge. At times during his NHL promotion, Geoffrion looked like a solid NHL player, but at other times Geoffrion looked a step or two behind on the ice (much like he did during the first months of his AHL stint this season). If Nashville coach Barry Trotz had a better option, Geoffrion likely would have sat and watched during much of the playoffs, but the Predators were decimated with center injuries, so Geoffrion got plenty of ice time. A return to the AHL won’t likely see Geoffrion refind his offensive touch (showed in the final weeks prior his NHL promotion), but the former Hobey Baker-winner could prove useful for Lambert in a checking center role.
So for a Game 7 prediction? I have Milwaukee defeating Houston 3-2 in overtime tonight, with Matt Halischuk scoring the game winner.
So Roundtable: What differences do think Jon Blum, Matt Halischuk and Blake Geoffrion make for Milwaukee tonight in Game 7? Do these three players tip the game in favor of the Admirals? If you were Lane Lambert, is there one of the three who you would not play?
Is there one other Predator (other than the obvious choices: Rinne, Suter and Weber) that if their contract/league rules allowed for it, would make a major difference tonight for Milwaukee?