The Penguins came up with a huge non-conference win against St. Louis Saturday. The top reason for the convincing victory was some line shuffling by coach Mike Johnston. Pittsburgh needed a boost on offense after failing to win in four straight games despite stellar performances from goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. They got the boost with the reformed lines.
On line one, Johnston stuck David Perron and Patric Hornqvist with Sidney Crosby. They performed well and were especially good at keeping the puck in the offensive zone for an extended period of time. Crosby did very well at distributing the puck on breaks, setting up multiple chances. When the Penguins were changing, Crosby was able to find players coming off the bench, setting up quick chances. Hornqvist scored a power-play goal on a pass from Crosby.
Line two played easily the best of any line. It consisted of two-goal scorer Blake Comeau, Evgeni Malkin, and Chris Kunitz. It was a great mix put together by Johnston, and they will certainly stay together for tonight’s game against Florida. Comeau has done a great job this season of getting in position for a good shot on goal, and he is known to bury his chances. Malkin is one of the best playmakers in the NHL, and Kunitz has been getting good position in front of the net for years. With Malkin finding Comeau for shots and Kunitz screening the goalie, this line played magnificently together against the Blues.
Line three was a bit different. It consisted of Brandon Sutter, Beau Bennett, and Zack Sill. They were the line that started the game, as to cause matchup problems. They played well together, and Sutter was able to score a goal. While it was on the power-play and not with Bennett or Sill, it was a good sign that Sutter was able to get on the board. He had been stifled for a number of games. Bennett and Sill still need to put up some more production. Neither has played particularly well on offense for a while now, so maybe putting them together will give them a boost.
Line four definitely looked promising. The line, which usually had Sill and Craig Adams on it, had Adams, Nick Spaling, and former Blue Maxim Lapierre. The fourth line got noticeably more playing time than usual, as Johnston recognized the game would be low-scoring and he decided to play more of a four-line game. Spaling and Lapierre helped the line get more scoring chances. This line definitely should stay together, as depth is something the Pens have had trouble keeping, and this line should help that problem.
Mike Johnston put these lines together perfectly. They should certainly stay together against the Panthers. Watch out for the second line, as Comeau, Malkin, and Kunitz dominated St. Louis. They should be able to do it again this evening.