And Now for Something Completely Different: Line Combinations!

I’ve tried to emulate Carp’s blog, but the following is an offering that Carp would never have provided: an entire post dedicated to line combinations!  No reporting, just complete editorial, clearly this is a HAV.

Over the past decade, the Rangers have employed a traditional 4th line; a mix of grinders, defensive forwards, enforcers, and penalty killing specialists. It appeared coming into this season they would be doing mostly the same, albeit with upgrades from Tanner Glass and Dominic Moore in Michael Grabner and Jesper Fast.  Additionally, there was an injection of skill in power play specialist Brandon Pirri as the center, especially while Oscar Lindberg recovered from offseason hip surgery.  All three of these players (as well as Lindberg) can move up the lineup in a spot, which was a big difference from last season, when Fast was incorrectly relied upon as a top six forward for long stretches of the season.

The season started with this set of lines:

Vesey-Stepan-Zuccarello

Kreider-Zibanejad-Buchnevich

Miller-Hayes-Nash

Grabner-Pirri-Fast

Everything was going fine until injuries hit, most notably Kreider and Buchnevich, forcing AV to shuffle his lines.  In shuffling his lines, he created a line of Grabner-Hayes-Miller, and caught lightning in a bottle, as the line exploded and has been very good ever since. As it stands, the lines have looked like this since Kreider and Buchnevich have returned:

Vesey-Stepan-Nash

Kreider-Zibanejad-Zuccarello

Grabner-Miller-Hayes

Buchnevich-Pirri-Fast

At first, the newly assembled lines with Grabner and Vesey went off to great starts.  The new fourth line struggled early, but over the past three games they’ve produced, and Buchnevich has really started to emerge as a player.  However, his line hardly has anything to do with it.  He deserves more ice time.

For differing reasons, Vesey and Kreider have found themselves benched in two out of the last four games. Personally, I think Zibanejad has been the worst skater over the past five games or so, but AV has seen fit to sit Vesey and Kreider instead. Bearing this in mind, I think it’s time for Vesey to start a game or two on the fourth line.  In coming to this conclusion, I am operating under the following set of premises:

1) Grabner-Hayes-Miller is still working. They didn’t score against Vancouver, but they had a few good chances. I don’t think it’s time to split them just yet.
2) Buchnevich is playing great. He needs more ice time.
3) Someone from the other two lines must replace him on the fourth line and it can’t be Stepan or Zibanejad.
4) Vesey is not as good as Kreider, Nash, and Zuccarello.

If you accept all of those as true, then Vesey should be the guy to go to the fourth line.  The line combinations could look like this:

Nash-Stepan-Zuccarello

Kreider-Zibanejad-Buchnevich

Grabner-Hayes-Miller

Vesey-Pirri-Fast

Should Grabner-Hayes-Miller’s production dry up, then you switch Vesey and Grabner in the lineup.

All of this also ignores that Oscar Lindberg, who before the season was expected to fill the fourth line center position after recovering from his hip surgery, is still being Prucha’d on a nightly basis. AV has said that he is fully healthy, so I’m not even sure that they could get away with sending him to Hartford for a conditioning stint anymore.

This also ignores Josh Jooris, but that’s because I think he’s a fringe NHL player who is clearly no better than fourteenth in the forward depth chart.

What do you think? Should Grabner-Hayes-Miller be split up now? Should it remain and some other lines be adjusted to accommodate Buchnevich and/or Lindberg?  Should everything be left alone? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Please remember to tell everyone you know and to follow me on Twitter @rangersreport2.

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77 thoughts on “And Now for Something Completely Different: Line Combinations!”

  1. I’d be fine with swapping Vee-zee with Buke for a start, it sends the message to the two youngsters that ice time is earned. I don’t think Kreider would benefit from the drop, but we need to start seeing him dominate games now, just his mere presence put Big Buff on his more-than-adequately-sized keister the other night and he needs to start using that speed and size to create holes and back defenders off to at least create room for his linemates if not create some space for himself

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  2. My thoughts, Doodie you make some good points. Coaches are under pressure to win games and putting together the best possible line-up to succeed is what they try to do. I’m not sure this team is ready to contend they have more youth then past teams and D still has issues. Because of that AV should look to the future and build some chemistry with the young forwards. I believe may have been Gorton’s plan over the summer. My lines again would be!

    Nash – Stepan – Zuccarello
    Kreider – Zibanejad – Buchnevich
    Vesey – Hayes – Miller
    Graber- Pirri- Fast

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  3. For the moment i’d go with:
    Nash – Stepan – Buchnevich
    Kreider – Zibanejad – Zuccarello
    Grabner – Hayes – Miller
    Vesey- Pirri- Fast

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  4. For right now, I would go with RR2s line combos. But if this is the forward group that you are going into the playoffs with (it won’t be), then the team would be better served with Grabner on the 4th line.

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  5. LINE COMBOS!!!!!
    .
    Pirri is NOT a 4C, in fact he a barely a center let along a defensive one, not that AV is using him that way; he has been directly liable for goals against recently and quality scoring chances as well. Can that line outscore the opposition? Can Pirri’s production on PP neutralize his 5v5 play? His presence on the PP is directly the result of the lack of PP options on D. It all comes back to the D’s limited options… Calling Cody Franson…calling Cody Franson
    .
    Oscar still looked injured (like Klein) but his 2 way play and Grabber with Fast on the forecheck is probably the 4th line. VC with Haze/Miller would be exciting to watch and could catch fire as well.
    .
    Butch has earned more 5v5 time and the early dominance of the KZB line warrants another long look a THE has fallen back into inconsistency and Zika has been AWOL. Maybe Butch was the star of that line? ;-D

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  6. I hate west coast games. There’s no way I can stay up that late to watch. Three wins on this road trip would be nice.

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  7. With the 3rd line (which currently includes Grabner) playing so well, someone good is getting the shaft. The candidates basically begin and end with our rooks, Vesey and Buch. Vesey’s a top-6 forward, and belongs there despite some recent benchings (which have more to do with other lines overperforming, if AV is to be believed). Buch is a top-6er as well, but unfortunately lost his spot due to injury. But if anybody deserves a bump up in line and icetime, it’s him.

    Now, I’ve had some minimal back and forth about the 4th line with Doodie and JamesG (minimal due to me having other commitments keeping me from engaging on this blog as much as I’d like), where I’ve stated that whoever winds up on the 4th line shouldn’t view it as a huge demotion, as our 4th line has the talent to produce. So I wouldn’t mind seeing Vesey drop down in favor of Buch, until Grabner comes back down to earth and we course-correct. BUT – Buch IS producing down there, and gets quality PP time. So maybe we don’t mess with it.

    For the time being, I’d go with:

    Vesey – Stepan – Nash
    Kreider – Zika – Zucc
    Miller – Hayes – Grabner
    Fast – Pirri – Buch

    When the 3rd line stops playing lights out:

    Zucc – Stepan – Nash
    Kreider – Zika – Buch
    Vesey – Hayes – Miller
    Fast – Pirri/Lindberg – Grabner

    Something tells me as Jooris gets closer to being healthy, our man Oscar might find himself exchanged for a mid-rounder.

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  8. RR2,
    As long as Fast is a 4th liner, I’m okay.
    They are eventually going to need a true 4th line center, and I don’t mean Jooris. Somebody who kills penalties, can play late in the game with a lead. Can chip in a bit on O. What Brian Boyle was. Anything less than that, I leave Pirri there.

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  9. Forwards mixed up, too.

    Kreider-Stepan-Nash
    Buchnevich-Zibanejad-Zuccarello
    Vesey-Hayes-Miller
    Grabner-Pirri-Fast

    I do not understand why AV is intent on not reuniting Kreider-Zibanejad-Buchnevich.

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  10. Torts, to his credit, knew he didn’t have many snipers, so he put a 3rd line together that could spend 30-40 seconds in the Ozone with an odd goal thrown in every once in a while. Other team cannot score without puck.
    .
    Steve Smith notwithstanding

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  11. LINE COMBOS!!
    .
    Kreider-Stepan-Nash (CAN DEFINITELY WORK IF STEP CAN KEEP UP)
    Buchnevich-Zibanejad-Zuccarello (THIS ONE I DON’T UNDERSTAND)
    Vesey-Hayes-Miller (THIS WILL BE FUN TO WATCH.)
    Grabner-Pirri-Fast (STILL THINK PIRRI IS NO 4C)

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  12. Zucc will again be out of place. His style is to hold on to the puck, and let things develop. Zibanijad, and Buchnevich get it and move it. This line will not work.

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  13. Zucc get the puck, spin around a bit on the half boards, Buch, and Z will stand around and watch get blamed and benched.

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  14. It does E3. Plus if they get the right deal, he could land them the Dman the badly need. It is risky to trade Zucc though. He is a very good player. You would be counting on Buchnevich, and Vesey to pick up the slack form a Zucc departure.

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  15. Buch z pack Kreider
    Nash stepan zucc
    Grabner Hayes miller
    Vesey lindberg Roussel

    Mcdonut Klein
    Staal franson
    Holden Girardi

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  16. Pirri over Nash. That’s funny.
    RR2,
    No argument about Zucc, being as good as last year. The problem I see with Zucc this season is his inability to fit in o multiple lines. Zucc plays Zucc’s game. Those that play with him have to adapt.mit is no coincidence that Kreider and Zibanijad slumped when put with Zucc. I called it after there first game together. They play with speed, and move the puck. Zucc gets the puck, holds the puck, and slows the other two down. The opposition didn’t have to slow them down, Zucc did it for them.mit will be the same exact problem with Zucc playing with Buchnevich and Z. He should be with Stepan. Zucc is like Carmelo Anthony. He gets the puck, holds the puck, everybody stops and waited till Zucc does something with the puck.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Nash shouldn’t be protected, but neither should Pirri.

    BDL, I don’t disagree about Zuke. He’d make a tremendous line mate for the Sedins. he would be an 80+ point player with them.

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  18. Good morning, boneheads!
    Sorry, haven’t been around last couple of days. Things got busy at work.
    I rarely do line combos. If ever.
    As far as Zucc. I don’t think there is anyone in the lineup that can fully substitute what he adds. Buchnevich may become that player one day, he isn’t there yet. Sometimes you need to have someone who can slow things down and distribute the puck properly. On PP, for example. It’s not that he doesn’t fit on any specific line, it’s just that the coach hasn’t found where he would be most efficient. I wouldn’t be so fast and trade him yet.

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  19. Ilb,
    The Rangers do not want to slow things down. And they certainly don’t want Kreider and Zibanijad slowed down. That’s there game. Get it, move it, skate.

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  20. Line combos….boring. Might as well try to pick a coin flip ten times in row. I never get the blog fascination with lines, changes between games and even in-game are a fact of life.

    I miss the good old days when we’d just argue about McIlrath being the future savior of the defense.

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  21. What do people have against their leading scorers? After Nash led the team in goals people wanted him traded. Now it’s Zucc.

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  22. Charlie,
    I do not want to trade Zucc. It is just my opinion that if you try and trade for a top 4 Dman, Zucc would be the forward to move. As far as line combos go, I do not think Zucc works with Kreider and Zibanijad. That does not mean I think Zucc is a bad player. I happen to think Zucc is a very good player.

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  23. Bulldog – I’m vibin with you. Zucc is a good player. Great vision. Insane passing skills. Great hands. But his style of play is best in a half court offense whereas the rangers are a fast break run the floor type of team. Trade Zucc for a top 4 Dman.

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  24. hey kids.

    OFF TOPIC QUESTION

    Does any of you have any airline tickets hook up? Airfare discounts? Maybe even miles that you are eager to share with the fellow bonehead? I’m not going to far…just Florida at the end of the month. So…any help / suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Help poor student out! Thanks!

    MY EMAIL: ODESSITBK@MSN.COM

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  25. Norm – as mentioned, Zucc prefers the half court offense. He seems to prefer a slow methodical style of play. Largely I imagine due to his exceptional vision and passing ability. Trade Zucc.

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  26. I see our genius coach has put Kreider on the LW with Nash and Stepan, brilliant move AV! Again this team is not winning the Cup this year, reunite the KZB line and let them have time to gell! Wake up coach think of the future! And trade the Zucc he is 29 the time is now.

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  27. Totally agree with the post. As has been said in past days, Zucc seems to slow down THE and Zib. Nash clearly goes up, V down. One really shouldn’t * with the 3rd line, though sounds like AV has decided to. Who knows, maybe he gets another 20 pts out of them.

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