Whereas the Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust line was bulldozing the NHL in Sidney Crosby’s absence, there was an ongoing debate as to what would occur with the road combos when Crosby returned to the lineup. Which winger would play with which heart, and would the Penguins mechanically put Guentzel again on Crosby’s wing? Properly, Guentzel’s harm put an abrupt finish to that dialogue and created a wholly new line mixture debate.
As in, what precisely are the lines going to look like with out their finest winger? We received our first look at that on Tuesday in Crosby’s return in opposition to the Minnesota Wild, and the early returns had been promising.
The one line that remained untouched was the Teddy Blueger, Brandon Tanev, Zach Aston-Reese line, they usually ended up enjoying extra 5-on-5 minutes than some other mixture on Tuesday evening. I like that trio, and I like that they saved it collectively.
Whereas protecting in thoughts it was in opposition to a fading Minnesota group that needed to play your entire sport with solely 5 defensemen as a result of tousled their lineup card, you must like what you noticed.
First, there was the Malkin and rust duo who teamed up for an excellent aim in the second interval. It was the kind of “no no no NO NO! … YES!” move from Malkin that was both going to place him on a spotlight reel or a blooper reel. On this case, it labored to perfection.
When Guentzel was nonetheless in the lineup I figured a very good center floor with the road combos could be to separate the distinction: Give Guentzel again to Crosby and preserve Rust with Malkin. Each duos appear to have nice chemistry collectively and it provides every heart a winger that works with them. So in that sense it appears sensible to maintain Rust in a spot the place he has not solely succeeded, however is having the perfect season of his profession.
You additionally needed to have some degree of expectation that Simon was going to finish up again on Crosby’s wing as a result of … effectively … he loves him and it tends to work.
That left the opposite spot on every wing.
McCann and Kahun appeared like cheap candidates, however I used to be initially skeptical of that as a result of I favored the potential that they had as a third-line duo. However the emergence of the Blueger, Tanev, Aston-Reese line sort of took care of that.
McCann on the highest line is the attention-grabbing one as a result of he has all of the instruments to make a big impact subsequent to Crosby. He has the velocity and skating skill to maintain up, he is an effective defensive participant, and he has an absolute rocket of a shot that looks like it may do some harm subsequent to a playmaker that’s going to attract a lot of the consideration. What’s even crazier is that the wingers on that line (McCann and Simon) teamed up for a fantastic thing about a tic-tac-toe aim in the primary interval that Crosby was not solely not part of, however he wasn’t even on the ice at that precise second.
It nonetheless wouldn’t shock me in any respect to see the Penguins be in the market for one other winger (Jason Zucker! Chris Kreider!) as a result of, A) they may in all probability nonetheless use one to actually steadiness out the lineup, and B) It will make them that significantly better, particularly when/if Guentzel is ready to return for the playoffs. However for proper now I wish to see how these combos work.
They’d an ideal start on Tuesday.
The mixture will get slightly harder on Thursday.