Well Kings fans, it only took 42 games, but today Terry Murray relented and went back to a top line of Smyth-Kopitar-Williams in practice. We haven’t seen this trio, save for an accident of on-the-fly changes, since last season.
What does this mean?
Well first off all, maybe I can have nicer things to write about in the lineup card.
Next is the ripple effect.
Working from the bottom on up, that 4th line could be many things. We could see Poni-Richardson-Westgarth, or Poni-Lewis-Westgarth, or Poni-Richardson-Lewis, or even Richardson-Lewis-Westgarth, though I doubt we see that last combo. Let’s all pray for Poni-Richardson-Lewis, a 4th line you can roll at any time for a regular shift. In the immediacy, Richardson is due to get back into a game this Thursday after sitting out the last two as a healthy scratch. Whether this means Lewis or Westgarth gets the scratch is unknown at the moment.
The third line of Sturm-Stoll-Simmonds have now seen two games together. Simmonds is thriving on the trio and Sturm-Stoll are still working out their respective kinks. All in all, a solid line.
The second line is one I have wanted to see for quite some time.
In Clifford you have young hunger and a mean streak in a player who will always try to get the puck to the front of the net on way or another. In Zus you have smarts, veteran leadership and a big body willing to play the deflection and garbage game. In Brown you have speed, hitting, some skill and the willingness to shoot. This line has the potential to be too many players playing too similar of games, or it could be a line primed for nothing short of pure destruction and chaos. Lets go with that. Chaos.
Finally, oh lordy finally, the first line. Smyth-Kopitar-Williams. All three have had success this season. All three have slumped this season. All three are ready to skate together. The words “long overdue” only skim the surface. I was stunned the first day of training camp when this line was not put together, and I’ve been stunned ever since that it hasn’t been tried again. This line is as good of a known commodity in terms of the line-up that this team has. This is the only combination that can truly strike fear in the hearts of opponents and back off defensemen.
Of course, there are caveats. Will a simple line change make Kopi shoot the puck more? Given Smyth and William’s propensity to cycle, its certainly possible.
Will playing with Kopi urge Smyth away from staring at the blue paint through white mesh to standing in it like a pillar? As Kopitar is perfectly capable of taking over behind the net, its certainly likely.
Will getting back on the top line save the tenacious Williams of the first 20 games from the complacent Williams off the last 20? Given the heights this trio knows they can reach, its certainly expected.
There’s something missing.
Will a simple change in lines turn this team’s game around?
There needs to be more than that. What? I can’t say for sure. System adherence and adaptability comes to mind. Stronger and perhaps more caustic condemnation from the coach is a suggestion. Better goaltending is a good option. An team-wide group enema is another.
But for now, I find myself remarkably pleased and excited to see the Kings only top line of the last two years take the ice again.