Prolific Nashville Predators JoFA line feeling the pressure to produce even more in Game 3

Viktor Arvidsson, left, Filip Forsberg (9) and Ryan Johansen (92) have been prolific for the Predators this postseason. AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Once famous mostly for adorning Teemu Selanne's helmet, the word JOFA has taken on new meaning in Nashville and other cities around the NHL.

Nashville Predators forwards Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson have gone from undervalued to highly rated, as their so-called "JoFA" line has arguably been the most effective of any trio this postseason.

They have scored a combined 10 goals, with nine coming at even strength. They have absolutely dominated opponents 5-on-5; the Predators have a double-digit goal differential when all three players are on the ice. And they have remained low-maintenance and understated through it all.

"We're confident players and we believe in ourselves," said 24-year-old Johansen.

The trio has figured prominently in both games of Nashville's Western Conference finals series against the Anaheim Ducks. In Game 1 -- which the Predators won 3-2 in overtime, their third consecutive series-opening victory on the road -- Johansen set up Forsberg for a redirection and fed winger Austin Watson for Nashville's second goal.

"I think he's playing unbelievable," Forsberg said of Johansen, who recorded his third consecutive multipoint game Sunday and has produced at a point-per-game rate this postseason. "You can look at the statistics, too. He's shown up in every category."

In Game 2, Arvidsson lobbed a pass ahead for Johansen, who was a couple of strides ahead of speedy Ducks defenseman Brandon Montour. Johansen's breakaway ended up in the back of the net to give Nashville a 1-0 lead. That was also the end result of a turnover by Anaheim's Jakob Silfverberg in the second period. Arvidsson picked it up and burst into open ice, faked a slap shot to flummox goalie John Gibson, then left the puck in front off a wraparound for a tap-in by Forsberg. Meanwhile, Johansen set up James Neal's power-play goal, meaning the members of the JoFA line were involved in every Predators goal in the game, which Nashville lost 5-3.

Arvidsson, 24, has shown not only high-end skill and creativity but also top-percentile acceleration. He has created tempo, engendered energy and, of course, put the puck in the net with regularity.

"There's no guy faster out there," Forsberg said. "The way he's skating is terrific; obviously, it creates chances for me, Joey and for the whole team."

Many top lines are composed of top draft picks or other high-profile prospects, but the members of the Predators' trio were not the sort of prominent amateur players that Chicago Blackhawks stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were. Yet Nashville swept the Blackhawks in dominant fashion in Round 1, then ousted the St. Louis Blues in six games in the second round.

Forsberg, a 2012 first-round pick, was acquired from the Washington Capitals in 2013 in exchange for veteran winger Martin Erat and prospect Michael Latta. Erat scored two goals for the Capitals in 62 games before being traded to the Arizona Coyotes. Forsberg has scored 102 goals, and counting, for the Predators, making the deal more lopsided by the day.

David Poile, the only GM in Nashville's 20-year history, has made a habit of developing outstanding defensemen and signing them to reasonable contracts. So full was his cup of blueliners that he was able to trade promising defenseman Seth Jones, who became an All-Star for the Columbus Blue Jackets this season, for Johansen in January 2016. After Johansen fell out of favor in Columbus, Poile pounced. He and the Predators finally got the No. 1 center they had coveted for the history of their franchise, as witnessed by their previous, overaggressive acquisitions of past-their-prime pivots such as Peter Forsberg and Olli Jokinen.

Perhaps Poile's most cunning move was drafting and developing Arvidsson. Passed over in not one, not two, but three drafts, Arvidsson was 21 years old when he was selected in 2014. He was discovered by a Predators scout based in Arvidsson's native Sweden, and in his first full NHL campaign the winger has blossomed into a star, scoring 31 goals this season.

Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said he was impressed with Arvidsson immediately when the Swede reported to rookie camp after the Predators made him a fourth-round pick, No. 112 overall.

"It's a credit to our scouts for staying on him and following him and being adamant that he was a player," Laviolette said. "He's got good speed, and he's a competitive guy. He likes to shoot the puck, and he's had a real strong year."

The JoFA line has drawn the highest compliment Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle could pay it: That line has to play against Ryan Kesler, Andrew Cogliano and Silfverberg whenever the Ducks can get their shutdown trio over the boards.

"Of course they play hard. And that line is probably their go-to line, to be playing against top lines. And we knew we were going to see a lot of them," Arvidsson said. "We've just got to keep working and try to do our best to play our game."

In Game 2, there was no shortage of give-and-take in the matchup. The JoFA line buzzed -- and produced -- even in a losing effort. Kesler appeared to have won a battle within the battle, irritating Johansen to the point that he went on a postgame tirade, railing against Kesler's character and on-ice tactics.

"He takes pride in throwing guys off their game," Ducks defenseman Josh Manson said of Kesler. "So hopefully it is working. He's a tough guy to play against; it's an asset to have [him] on our team."

Kesler's line has performed well against the JoFA line in a controlled setting, but the margin for error has been razor thin for the Ducks. Almost every mismatch and miscue has ended up in the Anaheim net, courtesy of some combination of JoFA linemates, with Johansen doing the most damage.

"Joey is one of the best centermen in the game right now, and I think if people didn't know that before the playoffs, they know that now," Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban said. "It is a compliment when you get that type of attention."

Johansen, who failed to check Silfverberg on a backdoor tap-in goal in Game 2, said that, despite its production, the JoFA line needs to play even better in Game 3 on Tuesday in Nashville.

"We're counted on as a top line. I made a bad mistake on the second goal," Johansen said. "Even though we created offense, we've got to be good defensively."