If there is one thing Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville taught the NHL last season, it would be that good things come to those who aren’t afraid to switch around a few line combinations. After all, the man won a Stanley Cup off of the idea. Switching players around has become a big topic for the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, and the Anaheim Ducks are simply the most recent team to show why.
On Saturday night, the Ducks defeated the Los Angeles Kings to tie up the Southern California playoff series at two games each. The team did so on the heels of stellar netminding by rookie goalie John Gibson and the offensive power of a newly reworked top line. Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau added Devante Smith-Pelly to the wing alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
Considering Boudreau ended up looking like the game’s mastermind for starting Gibson, it’s of little surprise Smith-Pelly and Getzlaf scored the night’s only two goals — for either team. Because Kings are a defensive-minded team, very few players in the NHL, save maybe Patrick Kane, can simply walk a puck over the Los Angeles blue line and actually create a scoring chance.
Early on in this series, Anaheim knew their game had to be to dump and chase, except that became all of Anaheim’s game with their inability to create chances along the boards. For a brief moment, it seemed the Kings might steamroll the Ducks to a spot in the Western Conference Finals.
But with Smith-Pelly alongside Getzlaf and Perry, the offensive chances along the boards started to come right at the onset of Saturday night’s game; before the first period was over, Anaheim had already scored all that would be needed to put away a win.
Smith-Pelly, who was recently recalled from Anaheim’s AHL team for the playoffs, should stay in the top line for Game 5 on Monday night; why not keep a good thing going?
But if for some reason Boudreau decides to switch the lines (again), no one should panic. After all, if there is anything we learned from watching the coach’s genius, it’s that we should probably no longer question his decisions. After all, there is a reason why we watch from behind the glass and not behind the bench.