Wednesday, November 5, 2008

How should the Pens' lines shape up?

Being that it's been about 5 days since Pens coach Michel Therrien realigned his offense, I think it's reasonably safe to assume that we can expect another change coming in the next few games. So, naturally, what can we expect to see as far as the next lineup changes, whenever it is that they happen?
Well, let's take a look at the two keys to the lineup: Sid and Geno. There's no question that anything this team does should center around getting these two in the best positions to succeed. Personally, I am of the opinion that the two of them should be put together on the same line except for in desperate times, such as end of games or during losing streaks, or if one of them happens to be in a scoring slump. And since they are both natural centers, we have our middle men on the top two lines established.
Next, many people would say that Petr Sykora should remain on Malkin's line because of the success that those two have enjoyed together. Sykora has struggled on Geno's wing so far this season, but he'll turn things around as the season goes along, and I'm not about to make a drastic move like taking him off Malkin's wing.
Next, we have our resident third line center, Jordan Staal. I know that it has become an increasing debate about where Staal should play, a top two winger spot or a third line center position. The Penguins already have a pretty serviceable third line center on the roster, though, in the form of Mad Max Talbot (we'll discuss him in a bit), so to me it makes sense that Staal should be put on a top 2 line, and play center only on the PK. It's worth noting that almost all of Staal's time on the wing has been spent on Malkin's, and it would intrigue me to see how he might fare on Crosby's wing, so we'll stick him there and see if he can keep up with the Kid.
As I just mentioned, Talbot, who I think is legit second line winger if necessary, will be our third line center, a role I think he really thrives in.
Now for our other top line wingers. While Miro Satan leads the team with 6 goals, he often appears to have cement in his skates, and looked to be a very poor fit for Sidney when he played on the top line early in the season. I also worry about him being a poor fit for Geno on that second line with an older, slower player already there in Sykora, so we drop him down another line, to Max Talbot's line. I know this isn't a tremendous fit, but we would still be on the power play unit, where he has scored most of his goals. The other offseason signee, Ruslan Fedotenko, has gotten off to a bit of a slow start, but I think there is some potential with him on the top line with Sid, so I'm keeping him there.
Pascal Dupuis then is clearly being booted off of Sid's wing, but I don't think he's done enough there. I also don't think he's a real top-two line player, and it was a toss up for me between him and Matt Cooke for the left wing on the second line, but I sided with Dupuis, for now. This leaves Cooke for the third line, a spot where I think he gives the Pens an absolutely tremendous third line.
Now, we have our fourth line, which is the remnants of our roster, including the guys who could be scratched on any given night. I think Tyler Kennedy and Mike Zigomanis are both excellent fourth liners who could spend time on the higher lines if necessary, but both are mainstays here that shouldn't be in contention for being scratched, at least in my opinion. They are also both centers, but Zigomanis has proven to be a pretty solid faceoff man, so I'll give him the middle, with TK on the wing. This leaves our other wing to either scrappy Paul Bissonette or enforcer Eric Godard. The traditional NHLism is to stick the enforcer out there, but I think that is a stereotype from a past era, and unless there is legit bad blood between the Pens and their opponents (say Flyers, Rangers, Caps, or any team involving Sean Avery) then I would keep Godard off the ice because he might as well not even have a stick half the time he's out there he's so offensively challenged. To recap, here's the visual aid of my lines:

Line 1: Fedotenko-Crosby- Staal
Line 2: Dupuis- Malkin- Sykora
Line 3: Cooke-Talbot- Satan
Line 4: Kennedy- Zigomanis- Godard/Bissonette

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