Written by: Larry “The Nucks IceMan” Johnson
So it’s long been known that when the Vancouver Canucks are playing on the road, if the opposition matches up their best shut-down line against the Sedin line, chances are they will win.
But what about the other way around when the Canucks are trying to shut down the opposition top line? As you know, the home team gets the last change, so trying to get that line out is difficult at best, unless a quick change is made after the face-off.
In previous years on the road, the Canucks would send out the Ryan Kesler line, in hopes of neutralizing the top line and that the scoring would come from either the second or third line. Problem is, and has been over a number of years, the lack of scoring from anyone on either of those two lines.
Ryan Kesler, Mason Raymond and presently Mikael Samuelsson, were left to carry the scoring load and just didn’t get it done. The third line last season was such a shambles with a constant change of personnel, that they just couldn’t be counted on. And forget about the fourth line, they had six goals between them all last season.
This season has seen probably the best third line in recent memory, with Manny Malhotra, Raffi Torres and Jannik Hansen, who early in the season have stepped up to not only add secondary scoring (8G, 8A), but have played a shut down type of defense that can play against the number one opposition line.
So now Canucks Coach Vigneault can throw out either the Kesler or Malhotra line and know that they will do the job defensively, and that either should be able to provide the secondary scoring.
Not only that, but the opposition will have to hope it can get its top line out against the Canucks fourth line, in order to produce some offense.
When you look around the NHL these days, once you get by the first two lines of most teams, there is not a lot of offensive power. It’s no mystery that the Stanley Cup winners of the past several years have had that in common - three good lines.
Very seldom do the coaches match up number one against number one, preferring to look for a weaker line, which they feel can exploit the opposition. Let’s see how that works out this month for the Canucks, as they play six of their next seven games on the road.
If there is to be success on this road trip it will have to come from the second and third lines contributing to the offensive production. The days of trying to survive just on the Sedins and maybe Kesler’s line, are a thing of the past. At least that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.
As always, you can also find me at @twitter.com/nucksiceman.com, @nucksiceman.com and @communities.canada.com/vancouversun/blogs/fanattic/default.aspx
Filed under: Opinion