Bylsma's Line Shuffling Pays Off
I’ve been away on vacation and have had some time to think about the Pittsburgh Penguins, so I figured I’d put them out there in a notebook style…
Mix and Match Lines
Many have found fault with Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma’s frequent line shuffling over the years, but as injuries mount, the benefits are revealed.
To make a long explanation short, the players grow comfortable playing with anyone, which results in a minimal drop-off in performance, if any, even when the team’s top three offensive players are sidelined, as they currently are.
As the playoffs get closer, the benefits will be magnified even more.
A Deep Lineup
Speaking of lines, considering the way everyone is playing, any number of line combinations could be implemented, but my lineup of choice would go something like this:
Dupuis – Crosby – Iginla: I may have been among those wishing to keep the best line in hockey in tact, but injuries derailed that plan, and the benefits to splitting the trio could create a positive ripple effect throughout the lineup.
Kunitz – Malkin – Neal: By moving Kunitz to this line, I’m hoping the trio will rekindle what led them to be the best line in hockey last season. These first two lines also happen to allow for the star players to resume playing their natural positions.
Morrow – Sutter – Jokinen: When Jokinen was acquired, common thought was that he would be a fill-in fore Crosby until healthy, then become a healthy scratch. He’s proven himself in his short time here and deserves the ice time. His faceoff and penalty killing skills only serve to enhance his value.
Cooke – Adams/Vitale – Bennett/Glass: My heart says Adams should be in the lineup nightly. My gut says it should be Adams. Ultimately, I think it will be Adams due to his playoff experience and his warrior-like nature. On the right side, you pick and choose based on the opponent. Need some finesse/offense? Go with Bennett. Need a pounder? Go with Glass, whose physical game has picked up significantly over the last few weeks.
That is one deep roster that just can’t be matched by any other team in the NHL. But we all know that games aren’t played on paper, and the Penguins will need everyone to play to expectations in order to be successful.
Morrow The Magnificent
As I mentioned playing to expectations, I couldn’t help but direct my line of thinking to Brendan Morrow, who has been dynamite after an initial slow couple of games with the Penguins.
The veteran winger has stepped up his game and is showing why he is so respected around the league.
Need a big hit? He’s on it. How about a screen? No problem. A nice pass? Taken care of. And a timely goal? He’ll score it.
Morrow may not be a scoring line winger any longer, but he’s proving that he remains as valuable as ever. Mark my words, when the playoffs begin, the legend status of “Morrow The Magnificent” will approach that of “Gary The Great.”
Let The Cards Fall
On my vacation, I ran into a gentleman wearing a Penguins t-shirt. Seeing my hat, he approached me and we discussed our favorite team. Deep into our conversation he asked who I hoped to see in the first round of the playoffs and even suggested the Penguins scratch a few players down the stretch if it means getting a more favorable first round matchup.
Don’t get me wrong, favorable matchups play a big role in eventually determining the Stanley Cup Champion. But I find three major flaws in my fellow fan’s thought process.
1. Who are the Penguins going to sit that makes them more likely to lose? They’ve been without Crosby for nearly two weeks, Neal for a week, Letang for a long stretch, Martin for a long stretch, and Malkin for a game. At present, Crosby, Malkin, Neal and Martin are out and they’re still riding a three game win streak.
If the goal is to tank a few games, they might have to scratch everyone and replace them with the day skaters among Penguin office staffers.
2. A favorable first round matchup is nice, but home ice advantage through the Eastern Conference Final is nicer.
3. The best way to have success in the playoffs is to have that competitive drive leading into the playoffs. “Tanking” a few games at the end of the season would disrupt the team’s rhythm and could prove to be much more harmful than helpful.