With new lines in practice.
Lets look at them one by one for a quick analysis of why he might make such seemingly odd decisions.
Kopi and Brown have yet to be split up. Seeing as how they are both on their way to career years, the logic in keeping them together is perfectly sound. We have seen Simmonds up with these two before, but on the right side. I believe this will be Wayne’s first foray into the left wing. So what can Simmonds bring to the other side of the ice? Well, he has been playing some damn good hockey lately. He has been extremely strong along the boards. Having him on the left allows Brown to continue to steam roller game he has been playing, while giving Kopi someone to play catch with along the boards. If Kopi and Wayne can get in a groove on the cycle, Dustin Brown should be able to cause enough havoc near the crease to open up pleantiful opportunities for garbage goals, which we know is the kind of goal Murray (and I) believe have held the team back during this losing streak.
UPDATE: Hammond was wrong, Simmonds is on the right. This makes more sense, since again, Wayne has never been on the left before. Brown, as we have seen, uses his speed more on the left and controls the puck more than he does on the right. This is Brown’s ‘dangling’ side… So really, this line is the same as we saw against the Blackhawks and Ducks in games 22 & 23 (a 2-1 loss and a 2-0 loss). Based off previous notes in the lineup card on those games, they played well defensively but did not create many scoring opportunities.
Stoll’s production has fallen off the map. Handzus left his map at home over the summer. We all know that Williams is the cog that keeps the second line moving and Smyth is the one expected to bang home the puck as Willy draws defenders away from Ryan’s home in the crease. I see this move as a hope to give those two a different look and increase their production even more, which though Smyth has been scoring the goals lately, Murray clearly stated the other day that he needs more from the second line. My concern is that this line is now very slow. Williams has some wheels, but Zus most definitely does not and despite Smyth’s ability to sneak in behind the defense on the left side, he is one of the slower skaters on the team. This line will have to be very smart with puck. Fumbles and bad passing will be the death of this line as they do not have the speed to recover from these kinds of mistakes.
This one is a bit of a head-scratcher. None of these players have played together before as far as I can remember. Not knowing Sturm’s history in full, I don’t know how often, if at all, he has ever played on the right side. We acquired him to be a left wing, so his rather quick shift to the right would be surprising if we weren’t all too aware of Murray’s propensity for funky line combinations. The pair of Stoll and Sturm could work well. Two savvy players with moderate ability. If Sturm can keep his speed on the rise, this could open up for some good forechecking shifts, which is the strength of both Clifford and Stoll. Clifford will add toughness to a line that would otherwise be on the smaller side. The big question now becomes… is this still the checking line to face opposing top lines? Perhaps, since we know the other two are meant to be the main scoring thrust. All three are defensively responsible. Still… this line seems in between identities, probably because it doesn’t have one yet.
The only known quantity as a whole. If Ponikarovsky is healthy, I have to assume he gets the go ahead of Westgarth. Should that be the case, this is a line that can play defense, score a little and keep the energy up, not just on their shifts but for the other three lines. This line is the key to being able to roll 4 lines in the way Murray wants. They do well, the whole team benefits from better match-ups, shorter shifts and fresher legs.
UPDATE: Poni not ready to play just yet. With Westgarth on this line, its the same as it has been. 2/3 useful and 1/3 tough.
Of course, we may see nothing like these lines tomorrow against Nashville. However if history is any guide, this will be how the Kings start the game as Murray tends to give his new-look practice lines atleast a period of game action before making further adjustments. What happens after the 10 minute mark of the first period is anyone’s guess. Successful shifts will lead to cohesion. Short term failure will likely mean quick changes leaving us to wonder if all they needed was time to gel. Let’s hope we see these lines for weeks to come.
I can’t stomach any more of this losing. I’m beginning to not care how well they play or how many posts they hit or how unlucky the bounces were, the only positive I care to take away from the game is a ‘+1′ in the column marked ‘W.’