Kennedy To Skate On Second Line
After an embarrassing home opener loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs Wednesday night, Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma has made roster adjustments that have been met with mixed reactions.
Big winger Eric Tangradi has been demoted from the second line to the fourth line after playing fewer than five minutes Wednesday. In his place will be speedy winger Tyler Kennedy. That allows Tanner Glass to be promoted to the third line.
As it stands, the offensive lines tonight in Winnipeg will be as follows:
Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Pascal Dupuis
Tyler Kennedy – Evgeni Malkin – James Neal
Matt Cooke – Brandon Sutter – Tanner Glass
Eric Tangradi – Joe Vitale – Craig Adams
Tangradi has been the subject of much criticism over the last few years as he fails to develop at the frequency many hope and expect. His first three games this season have served only to add fuel to the fire.
Skating with Malkin and Neal, Tangradi has averaged the lowest icetime on the team at 8:27 while failing to tally a point. A lack of scoring isn’t the only thing plaguing Tangradi, though. Despite his size, he rarely plays a physical game; his skating is suspect, at best; and he has lacked the vision necessary to make and finish plays with the dynamic duo on his line.
His demotion to the fourth line is a clear indication the coaching staff is frustrated with his development (or lack thereof), and one would presume his next step is to the press box.
Shifting to Kennedy couldn’t be much more drastic. Aside from their physical differences (Kennedy has a much less imposing frame), their games are completely opposite. While Tangradi is slow and passive, Kennedy is fast and tenacious.
He’ll bring an element of physicality to the Malkin and Neal combination that, theoretically, should help to push back defenses and create some space. He also possesses a strong propensity to shoot the puck at every opportunity, which can both benefit and hurt him.
At worst, his eagerness to shoot could slow down the play, either as result of the goalie freezing the puck or missing the net and creating a natural breakout pass for the opposing defense. At best, his quick release could lead to some even strength goals.
Kennedy isn’t the best fit for a scoring line, but neither is Pascal Dupuis, who has found a permanent home on the right wing of Sidney Crosby. If his game meshes with the games of Malkin and Neal, he’ll stay.
But don’t expect this experiment to last long if it doesn’t prove fruitful early. As we saw with Tangradi (and Dustin Jeffrey, following the first game), Bylsma and company aren’t willing to show patience with finding the right fits at certain positions during this lockout-shortened season.
Should Kennedy prove ineffective as a second line winger, rookie Beau Bennett could be the next player to get a look.
Moving on to Glass – the third and final player directly impacted in this lineup shuffle – we see another example of the coaching staff rewarding a hard working forward with an opportunity to increase his role.
When signed last summer, Glass was touted as a big, physical, defensive forward who fits perfectly on a fourth line and is comfortable skating on a third line. He’s proven the former to be true, and tonight he’ll get his first opportunity to prove the ladder to be true, as well.
Through three games, Glass has been as advertised: physical. He ranks second on the team with 10 hits, despite being 14th on the team in total icetime. He also has skated a regular shift on the penalty kill, proving his defensive skills and awareness.
His addition to the third line should make for a formidable unit, and one that physically imposes its opponents.
Unfortunately, Glass’ tenure on the third line likely will have little to do with his performance and everything to do with Kennedy’s on the second line. Should Kennedy play to expectations, Glass could find a longterm home with Matt Cooke and Brandon Sutter.
Needless to say the adjustments for tonight’s tilt hardly are earth shattering, but they represent dissatisfaction from the coaching staff. Change for the sake of change isn’t good, but when warranted the message sent can be just as important as the performances that follow.
Bylsma is unhappy after just one loss. I think the message has been heard.