Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Unbelievable: Michel Therrien switches the lines

As earlier quipped on this blog, Penguins head coach Michel Therrien will change line combinations as frequently (and maddeningly) as an aggressive driver changes lanes on the interstate....So perhaps it should be no surprise to see he used the following forward units at practice today:

Malkin- Crosby -Recchi
Malone- Staal - Hall
Roberts - Talbot -Sykora
Ruutu - Christensen - Armstrong

With the way the message boards, or Darwin's Waiting Room (as one occasionally amusing Caps blogger refers to them), you would have thought Coach was talking about making Crosby and Malkin healthy scratches.

"Why tinker with success when the Pens have won three straight!" they yell and, "Therrien has lost it, Hall on the 2nd line?" others whine.

Random protestor guy, your thoughts?

Therrien is no fool, he knows what he's doing. Fact is, practice IS the time to mix things up and let players get some time to play with new combos, to see if there's chemistry (like Staal-Hall) or to give your best two players (Crosby-Malkin) more icetime together. Maybe throwing in a sniper like Sykora with two grinders like Talbot and Roberts would be money. No risk trying it in a practice situation.

Clearly long-term Hall is not going to be a top 6 forward, and Sykora is not going to play a checking role. But in practice, to get a feel for the team, why not work some of the newer additions (Hall and Sykora) with some fresh faces. An in-game injury or penalty situation might mean they have to play with different players anyways. Now they atleast have something to build upon.

It will be interesting, when the Pens come out at home against another stumbling opponent-the Toronto Make Beliefs, if Therrien trots out line combos like this. Unless practice revealed something out of the ordinary, I highly doubt it.


Doc Nagel said...

Indeed, there is no need to panic.

But don't you think Therrien's critics have a point? Familiarity with linemates is important in hockey, especially for good offensive players (though sometimes not for the greats). Doesn't constantly breaking up combinations make this far more difficult?

Hooks Orpik said...

doc, thanks for the comment; I do agree that Therrien does shuffle things a little too much (which probably doesn't help with all those too many men penalties.)

However it's important for Crosby and Malkin to play with each other in practice to establish a rapport for the powerplay in games. You have to give them some icetime to keep players of that caliber on the same wave length.

I also have no problem playing Adam Hall (who's earning more and more PK time) some practice time with 2 regular PK'ers, Staal and Malone.

But, yes, overall I think it would be beneficial to keep lines a little more consistent atleast while in the game.