So we've finihsed the "extended" road trip and are finally coming home. I don't think I'd be going out on a limb by saying that NY has been outplayed the majority of the games, and that penalties have really been a problem. What I'd really like to talk about is the myraid of comments surrounding the line combinations. As the revolving door on the first line wing position continues, I've heard and read everything from bring back Avery, to resign Prospal, to shoot Chistensen and bench Rupp. Before addressing the line options, I'd like to point out what penalties and power plays do to the line combinations.
When a team is shorthanded, it forces the coach to cherry pick his best defensive forwards regardless of combinations. We've consistently seen Cally and Dubi (nice because they're on the same line), Step and AA, Boyle and Prust. The point here is that some strange combinations often result after the penalty ends as you work back to normal combinations, or you're forced to double shift guys. This is why (I think) Gabby and Richards aren't the primary PK forwards, there needs to be a ready line once the kill ends. Incidentially, the same is true on the PP - especially if you're putting a forward at the point.
Our forward lines have three glaring positional holes:
Gabby - Richards - [HOLE]
Cally - AA - Dubi
[HOLE] - Step - [HOLE]
Fedex - Boyle - Prust
Torts has been filling those holes with WW, MZA, EC, Newberry, and Rupp. Strangely, Torts has experimented with moving Dubi or Step to the top line, but we've seen the resulting cascading effect of putting EC, Newberry and Rupp all on one line; basically leaves us with two 4th lines. Also, pulling Step up left no skill player to work with MZA, which is why he was sent down. Hopefully WW can find a little chemistry with Gabby and Richie, but who knows. I would like to point out, before everyone keeps clamering for trades or the ressurection of Avery/Prospal; these four holes should eventually be filled with Borque, Kreider, Hagelin, Thomas, and/or MZA. My opinion is to keep EC and Rupp (they can live as healthy scratches), and rotate WW, MZA, Newbunny and the three Whalers through those three spots. Also, keep that fundamental four lines of centers intact, and keep the pack line and our fourth line set.
The same concept describes our D (gets a little more challenging with Staal out)
Staal - Girardi
McD - Sauer
[HOLE] - [HOLE]
So far Torts has been filling those holes with whoever he can get; I actually surprised we haven't seen McI for a stint, and it has been an adventure. Without Staal and Sauer for an extended time, this has been pretty tough, but ironically D hasn't been this teams overwhelming problem. Eventually, as with the forwards, the prospects will fill the holes - by next season perhaps?
This is my logic for saying stay the course, keep realistic expectations for this season, play the kids and pray for Hank to stay healthy.
Last, this team's first six games belong to Hank - he's done just a little bit more than his "job" getting us six points.