Monday, October 1, 2007

Scoring lines

I decided to write about the 1st and 2nd lines in one post, given the fluidity that often happens in trying to create mismatches with opponents and chemistry on the lines themselves.

Ok, the truth: I'm really late with this, and since the season starts tomorrow, I better get moving. I should have had all this done by now, and be on to commenting on what really happened.

So now I'm in the awkward position of having to pretend that the final cuts didn't happen, and stay in my little Habs GM bubble.

Here's what I foresaw happening for the Habs final scoring pairs:

1st: Kostitsyn-Koivu-Kovalev
2nd: Higgins-Plekanec-Ryder

All sorts of problems with these lines on the surface, but easily explainable:
  1. Chris Higgins is our best left wing. What's he doing on the second line? The simple answer is balance. Scotty Bowman even weighed in last year, saying that the Habs would do best if they would split up Higgins from the rest of their top line and thereby force other teams to have to concentrate on one line or the other. Who am I to argue with Scotty?
  2. Only one right hander among 6 forwards? This isn't ideal to be certain. But that's what happens when you get a left-handed right winger with the kind of talent that Alexei Kovalev brings. Last year, the answer was to bring in a right-handed left winger by the name of Sergei Samsonov. That didn't work out so well. Then with Kovalev's sliding play, he ended up playing with the team's lone right-handed center, Maxim Lapierre. I don't see that happening again this year, so I put him on the top line. His pre-season play seemed to warrant the move anyway
  3. Kostitsyn playing on the top line? I just like they symmetry. Call it the KKK line. Ok, wait. Don't call it that.
There are some other benefits to these lineups too. First, Higgins and Plekanec play a balls-out type of game. They'll crash the net and pay the price to create a scoring chance. They can also carry the puck effectively. Ryder can do neither of these. But he's a sniper, and the talents of the other two ought to open up some ice for him.

The first line really only has Koivu in the mold of Plekanec and Higgins. Kostitsyn has shown some goal scoring ability, and has speed to boot. Kovalev is old and slow, but uses it to his advantage. He likes to trail the play, and with Koivu and Kostitsyn rushing forward quickly, that ought to leave him opportunities to grab rebounds, throw a nifty move or two and bury the puck.

Or at least that's the theory.

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