So I'm skipping the obvious and heading directly to the Habs' fourth line. For some teams, this is a chance to break in rookies. For some fortunate few, it's a second checking line. And for the remainder, it's an "energy" line, designed to disrupt the rhythm of an opponent, kind of like an offspeed or changeup pitch in baseball. Rarely, it's a combination of all three.
This year, I think the Habs will have a line that's a little bit of everything. Maxim Lapierre will be on the right wing, providing that bit of energy (remember the incidents with Ray Emery? Emery's a hothead, but Lapierre did his job). The rookie breaking in will be Kyle Chipchura at center, and Guilliame Latendresse will provide a bit of scoring pop and muscle in the corners at left wing.
And with Lapierre's and Chipchura's defensive capabilities, they could function as a second penalty kill unit. Three reasons why:
- Both can and are being groomed into shutdown, checking-line players. Lapierre shadowed a few star players last year. We all remember how he got under Sidney Crosby's skin. That was kind of funny.
- Both play center, meaning that either have a lot of experience at faceoffs. This is critical on the PK, as the first guy to take the faceoff can be a little more, uh, aggressive in his approach. If he gets kicked out, there's an equally adept faceoff man waiting to take his place.
- Last but not least, Lapierre is right-handed and Chipchura is a lefty. As I've mentioned before, this is very important on defense.
And if injuries hit, we might see Dandenault or Streit lining up as a forward again. Dandenault has more experience at it, but Streit looked much more comfortable and confident in that role. Still, I'd much rather see Streit as a top-4 dman, so let's hope the injury and illness bug doesn't hit again this year.