That Was All Well and Good, But…
Wow, what great games by Smith and Anderson.
But, their great play, leading to the win, points to an issue elsewhere.
Skill on the top two lines.
Although the Sens won last night, after another late third period rally, the issue of scoring from the top two lines was rearing its ugly head for the first two periods of the game. For much of the game the top two lines looked anaemic, disjointed and ineffective. Spezza looked alone on an island, while Alfie and Mich appeared rudderless.
Then, after hearing the screaming pleas from my living room, MacLean reunited the top line, leading to the tying goal, and putting the Bolts into another late game tailspin. This would not have happened if the lines had remained intact, I absolutely believe this to be true, based upon the play of those lines over the last two games.
So what to do now? Go back to the original lines of Greening – Spezza – Butler/Filatov ahead of Michalek – Foligno – Alfredsson, or let the top three of 9-19-11 get back together while the remaining top nine battle it out for ice-time?
No doubt the “third” line deserves some additional ice time. They’ve been nothing short of outstanding on most shifts, on either side of the red line. But they have, at times, tried to get too fancy. Will more ice-time lead to swollen heads and a change in the play that has made them so impactful? Will loading the top line make this team too easy to defend against? Can Alfie continue to deliver the goods with more 5-5 ice time?
To me, the answer is obvious, and made so by the play on the ice. Greening, Butler and Filatov need to fight for their top six ice-time. They have to prove they deserve to play with the likes of Spezza, Mich and Alfredsson. Right now they aren’t earning it, and, IMO, they’re bringing their lines down, if anything.
I would suggest reuniting the top line, putting together 14-71-16/21, and letting them fight for ice-time with Condra, Smith and Daug. I actually think the players development is being hurt by playing with such good line-mates, forcing them too feel too much pressure for offense and not looking out-of-place or bringing down their play.
I also think Alfie should be taken off of the PK, unless one of Condra, Smith, Winchester or Daugavins is in the box. I would rather Alfies presence on the PP and top line, than on the PK. The days of a 20+ minutes for Alfie, over the long-term, are gone.
If those young players on the top line were still producing, they wouldn’t need to move, but that is not the case, and has not been the case for a number of games now, and it seems to be growing worse, not better.
Put them together, let them work it out, under less pressure, while rewarding the third line for their stellar play. To me these struggling players will improve more by being pushed by those of their same age/experience, than feeling over-whelmed to perform alongside star level talent.