The lines have been established …
We all love to complain when the player we’re pulling for doesn’t get the ice time we think they deserve. Or when the lines are shuffled in general, as has been the case for most of this season. But lately, Brad Larsen has stuck with his guns a little bit, which has allowed the team to develop some chemistry throughout the lineup.
Boone Jenner and Johnny Gaudreau have been two thirds of the top line for basically the whole season when healthy. But it seems like over the last few weeks, Kirill Marchenko has established himself as the third member of that line. He’s brought the talent, but also some youthful energy and I feel like there’s real chemistry with that trio.
But even with Gaudreau’s absence in the last two games, Patrik Laine has done a terrific job setting the example on that line. He’s been skating harder than I’ve ever seen him skate on both sides of the puck, and he’s getting rewarded with top line ice time. Otherwise, he’s been playing in a secondary role alongside two 19-year-olds: Kent Johnson and Cole Sillinger. This has been an odd, but effective trio since they’ve been put together, which has given the team some secondary scoring.
These combinations have assembled Jack Roslovic, Liam Foudy, and Emil Bemstrom into a third line of sorts, which has also had some strong shifts for the team. The two wingers here play simple, up and down hockey, which has allowed Roslovic to free-wheel with the puck a little bit, which seems to get his game going in a positive direction.
The only line that has stayed consistent is the Eric Robinson, Sean Kuraly, and Mathieu Olivier fourth line. They’ve been the team’s best line in at least a couple of recent games, and in my opinion have quietly developed into one of the best fourth lines in the league.
Improvement in the young players has helped make things easier for Lars when rolling his lines out. Quietly, players like Sillinger and Johnson have made improvements to their overall games, which has led to less odd-man rushes against, and more sustained offensive zone time. When your skilled youngsters are starting to show out and earn more minutes, the team will have more success overall.
Not to be overlooked are the veterans, who have done an excellent job leading the way. We mentioned Laine’s improved effort, but we can’t overlook the fact that Boone Jenner has a team-best 17 goals; or that the Kuraly line has been pretty dominant as a trio. Everyone up front has established and understood their role of late, which is a big part of team sports.