Walk the Line

Identifying line combinations that I believe should be reunited in an attempt to rejuvenate the spark that was once there.

Before I get started I wanted to clarify my restrictions for what I considered to be a “line combination”. All of these lines have played at least 50 mins. together at 5v5 within one season since 2019-20. That means no random combos that played one game together due to roster injuries.

van Riemsdyk-Giroux-Konecny (72 mins. in 2019-20)

The Flyers would be the first to admit that they have not played up to expectations this season. They have been the victim of some bad luck regarding COVID-19 break

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer

outs, and have received subpar goaltending from promising young gun Carter Hart (8-9-3, 4.04, .869). On paper, this team I would argue has the best depth on forward (maybe tied with St.Louis/Tampa Bay). We saw last year in the playoffs several bottom-six forwards on the Flyers step-up and produce such as Scott Laughton (9 pts. in 15 games) and Michael Raffl (5 pts. in 9 games). Given their forward depth and inability to stay healthy this season, it is no surprise some productive lines from last year have seen limited action.

JVR is having himself quite a season, Travis Konecny, aside from the early-season healthy scratch is just under a point-per-game himself. This trio last season, in their 72 mins of 5v5 ice time had a 3.5 xGF/60. That would rank first among Philly lines with 40 mins TOI this season. Coincidently, the best line this season also includes JVR. For a team that is currently ranks 29th in shots per game, you would think they would be going back to what worked so well for them last season. This line wasn’t all offense either. Their 1.83 xGA/60 gave this trio the best xG% meaning they were on the ice for almost two-thirds more chances for than they were against. The line changes have been frequent for Philadelphia and sooner or later they should land on this combo. Look for it to stick if it does.

Garland-Schmaltz-Keller (40 mins. in 2019-20, 170 mins. in 2020-21)

Not only has this line been the Coyotes most frequent top line this season, but they are also, by far, the most productive line. In 170 minutes this season, the Garland-Schmaltz-Keller line leads Arizona in nearly every offensive category including Goals For (13), xG% (59.4%), xGF/60 (2.9) and xGA/60 (1.98).

The problem, I believe Rick Tocchet has with this line is the large difference in their good games versus bad games. This should be expected playing in the West Division. Teams like Colorado, Vegas and St. Louis were expected to roll over teams such as Arizona, so poor games against these powerhouses should not be cause for concern when the season-long numbers prove this line is legitimate. The production from this line was interrupted at a critical point when Conor Garland missed some games with an injury, forcing some line shuffling, but upon his return, they have not quite spent enough time together on a line. After a fantastic rookie season, Clayton Keller dwelled in the middle-six for the next 2

Source: Boston Herald

seasons putting up back-to-back sub-50 point seasons, while being a combined -27. This year, Keller has amounted 28 points in 35 games, while playing majority of his minutes alongside Schmaltz and Garland. On a Coyotes team with limited forward depth and a defense-first style of play, I think the separating of this trio is more to do with balancing the rest of the forward lines than it has to do with poor play from them. There has been some games over the past two weeks where this line did play together, with mixed results, but I expect to see them again before the end of the season.

Rakell-Getzlaf-Terry (74 mins. in 2019-20)

Anaheim is about where we expected them to be in the standings at this point in the season. They appear to playing their rookies and youngsters a lot this year, which is fine by me, especially if their intention is to maximize their draft success. At the same time, I cannot imagine they want to be wasting away John Gibson’s prime (no matter how average he has been this year). FP has hyped up Rakell in the past and rightfully so. He has been a victim of some bad luck this season (5 G vs. 7.1 xG), but is also among the top 20 in shots on goal. I

Source: Orange County Register

think Rakell is one of their best offensive pieces right now and while his stats will not blow you away, consider how he has played majority of his minutes with Max Comtois and Isac Lundestrom and his performance this season becomes a lot more impressive. Rakell is only 27- years old and has had to become a veteran on that line. My suggestion to bring the Rakell-Getzlaf-Terry line takes some of the weight off of Rakell’s shoulders and allows the Ducks to utilize the last bit of Getzlaf’s career.

I envision Getzlaf being used as a Joe Thornton for the Ducks, similar to what Toronto has done with their top line. Thornton may be slower and less aggressive than he was in the mid 2000’s, but clearly Toronto likes him alongside Marner and Matthews. Getzlaf is a similar player and can contribute in the same way Thornton can. In only 74 minutes last season, the Rakell-Getzlaf-Terry line was second on the Ducks in xGF/60 (2.93) among lines with more than 50 minutes TOI. They also proved to be reliable defensively by putting up a 62.1% xG%.

I understand the reasoning behind Anaheim’s approach, but they should have been looking at this season as an opportunity to steal that 4th playoff spot in the West, by optimizing their lineup.

Thanks for reading. What line would you like to see back together? Btw I would have included Mangiapane-Backlund-Tkachuk as a line but CGY recently went back to it!

- FP Don

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