1 November 2013

Game n°13 preview: Isles swagger into town to play revamped Sens

Welcome, Thomas Vanek. (Truth: I nearly typed "Buffalo Sabres" into the categories of this preview.) The Isles have added a little bit more star material to their first line, and Vanek skated alongside John Tavares and Kyle Okposo in the Isles' last game, a 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers. But who cares about Thomas Vanek when we've got brand-spanking new line-ups right down to the team's tippy-toes, right?

Paul MacLean has rocked fans' worlds (in a bad way) changed things up in adding Neil and Conacher to Spezza's line, putting Michalek, Zibanejad and Smith together and attaching Phillips to Karlsson (apparently so the latter will play more defensively?) to free up Methot for Wiercioch. This puts Cowen, Gryba and/or Corvo on the 7th defensive pairing and leaves the two lines of Ryan-Turris-MacArthur and Greening-Grant-Condra intact. But that little bit of tranquility is nothing compared to the plain weirdness of having Neil on the first line... or Spezza on the third. Whichever one it is, Captain Jason isn't happy with it.

No one can blame him. But then again, MacLean chose a good stretch of time to play Frankenstein. November is, as we know, a much easier month in terms of opponents, and a bit of experimentation is less likely to have disastrous results against the Panthers than the San Jose Sharks. If Karlsson with Phillips means EK will be taking less offensive faceoffs (than he already is, anyway; over the first twelve games 49.4% of his starts have been in the OZ), it won't mean we'll be lit up or unable to respond in terms of production against bottom-feeder teams.

The idea that Michalek should play on the third line has been circulating a bit in the blogosphere. He seems to have become the new go-to scapegoat thanks to elevated expectations, and because his goal numbers have been somewhat lacking, it's easy to point the finger. The confusion over what, exactly, the Sens' first line is can only aid him; accompanied by a third-line centre in Smith and Zibanejad as a power forward, the change will probably only help Michalek.

Methot-Wiercioch could help Wiercioch ease out of his sheltered minutes at a lower risk with solid "defensive defenceman" Methot by his side; this also alleviates the pressure off Cowen and Gryba. As for the Neil line... well, MacLean is totally okay with changing his lines on the fly during the game. We'll have to see if his new lines were intended for any purpose other than sending a message or sparking some kind of mystical chemistry. The real question is: if these lines produce, will they be validated?

The NYI are on a mini 2-game losing streak; the Sens are on a less-mini 3-game losing streak that threatens to extend itself alarmingly. If we do so against a team which the majority of the fanbase views as a lesser team, the time to panic may set in upon us. But let's look on the bright side: once we've won one game, it's only a few more until we're on a winning streak. And October's behind us, we're capable. Let's win, Sens.


Post a Comment