Mad scientist Terry Murray is at it again. Since we are just before the playoffs and since he has hinted that these may be the playoff lines, my interest is peaked. Let’s take a look.
Ryan Smyth – Anze Kopitar – Justin Williams: Murray is still trying to capture the showtime that was this trio at the beginning of the season. He may be banking on Justin Williams’ slow emergence to finally take hold. Justin commented after the victory against the Ducks that his game is a puck possession one. Let’s hope Murray lets the first line play that way because with Williams opening space for Kopitar’s shot and Smyth planting his Canadian behind in front of the goal, this line can light the red light.
Alexander Frolov – Jarret Stoll –Dustin Brown: The enigmas. Three relatively inconsistent players on the same line. Sasha is playing in his comfort zone, the not great and not bad place we see him so often. Brown is on the rise. He moves like a power forward, drives to the net, passes and creates time and space for himself and others. If Brownie can continue to elevate his game, he will start to reach the top of the bell curve at exactly the right time of the season. Jarret is the hard one to figure out right now though the fact he is a fierce competitor and has a good playoff record gives me hope that his faceoff prowess, one-timer and speed will consistently find their way into his game.
Fredrik Modin – Michal Handzus – Wayne Simmonds: Big and strong. Each brings a physical presence, one willing to go to the net and stay there. The key to this line is a two way game. Murray won’t be putting these three out to score a lot of goals. This is the line that is intended to shut down the other’s top offensive unit and maintain momentum. Look for strong play along the boards, keeping opposing forwards to the outside and, when on offense, staying on offense. Some of this line’s success in its designated role will depend on the defensive pairing that accompanies it.
Scott Parse – Brad Richardson – Jeff Halpern: Murray has struggled with the fourth line combination. It has seen more variation than my wife’s wardrobe changes when late to an event. The combination of Parse, Richardson and Halpern makes an interest statement – rolling 4 lines. Speed, energy but something else you may not expect from a 4th. Offense.
The defensive pairings give me a migraine. Strike that. Rephrase. Randy Jones and Sean O’Donnell give me a migraine. Jones is has been sent from the Hockey Gods to test our will and patience. I am trying. O’Donnell is an old beau who has lost a step. Still, while Sean has all the character and talent to rebound, all we can hope from Jones is that his inevitable incompetence will cause gray hairs and not goals. Thankfully, Jack Johnson is meeting the hype that has followed him since his draft year. Doughty is fulfilling the prophecy. Greene, absent the occasional gaff, is a rock. Scuderi remains the piece at a worthwhile price.
Today, we play the Oilers. I will be watching these lines perform against one of the worst teams in the league, though they are not quite as bad since the trade deadline. Edmonton is playing for nothing but pride. That makes them dangerous. I expect our Kings to scoff at danger and then quell it.