It’s looking like the third line is the place to be for NHL stars.
Chicago’s Patrick Kane practiced with the third line yesterday (with Dave Bolland and Viktor Stalberg), presumably to help him remember his defensive responsibilities, but also to get his offense going, too.
Over in New Jersey, Ilya Kovalchuk is playing with Jamie Langenbrunner and rookie Jacob Josefson, on what could arguably be considered the third line.
Both moves show the evolution of the checking line. A lot of NHL coaches still like the idea of using a third line to try and slow down their opponent’s best line, but they don’t want to close the door on offense, either. If you’re deep enough to have a superstar on the third line, and you’re trying to make a point to your superstar, why not use them on the third line? It becomes win-win.
When you factor in powerplay time, it might not even result in reduced ice time for Kovalchuk or Kane.
I’m guessing the next team to deploy some offensive talent on their third line will be the Wild. Right now their checking line is their best line, and while coach Todd Richards doesn’t seem to mess with line combinations very much, it seems like he might need to break up his third line to get his top two lines going.
I’ve never been a huge fan of numbering lines, because it makes one line sound more important than another. At the end of a game, the biggest indicators of the importance of a line are the +/-, the points, and the time on ice.
To be most fair, I think the lines should be numbered after each game, not before or during. And maybe the previous numbering carries over to the next game, with the numbering cycle beginning again, after that next game.
I think it would keep a lot of players happy, since in any given game, players could literally play themselves onto the first line. And superstars could find themselves playing on the fourth line without their coach having to demote them. The stars would have no one to be mad at but themselves.
It’s time to end the tyranny of man-named NHL lines. Kane and Kovalchuk will help lead us to democratically named lines.