Here are the lines that I like and why for the start of the season. Now they will change during the year with injuries and hot/cold streaks.
JVR – Richards – Carter
Hartnell – Briere – Leino
Carcillo – Giroux – Zherdev
Shelley/Powe – Betts/Powe – Lappierre
Here is my rationale. First Briere proved that he is a big producer in the center and that entire line was incredible during the playoffs. Start them and ride them as long as possible. Second, let’s put JVR under some pressure to become a big time scoring winger. With Richards and Carter on the line his defensive issues will be much less evident. Third, put Zherdev with the best passer on the team and give them both a guy that can stir the drink in Carcillo on the wing. This move also matches Claude against the 3rd defense pair usually. Fourth, remember that Carter gives the team the ability to play with wall better than all the other centers due to his size. He is also the only one of the group that can flat out shoot from all over the zone and score – another sign of a scoring winger.
Here are my suggested defense pairs.
Pronger – Carle
Timonen – Mezzaros
Coburn – O’Donnell/Walker
This create 3 pairs that all have the ability to skate the puck out of danger, pass the puck up ice quickly, and play extremely physically on defense.
I would tell Boucher and Leighton that just like last year we are looking for them to make the saves they are supposed to make. They will not be facing 45 shots a game with the defense in front of them. They will win lots of games and put up great numbers if they stay square, challenge, and do not overplay the position. Stay in the net, don’t go running around to shoot the puck. I would also tell them both that they will each play around 30 games and the other 20 will be decided by who is hot at the time during key stretches.
Good Night and Good Hockey!
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