The Ducks looked good tonight, rolling four lines and some very successful combinations. With Dan Sexton out, Randy Carlyle decided to dress Bodie, Voros and Parros and put three million dollars in the press box, naming Jason Blake as a healthy scratch.
Blake has played well for the Ducks since coming over from Toronto, rarely drawing the ire of Randy Carlyle's pencil, but after a couple of lapses against Detroit, Blake found himself on the fourth line in practice and out of the lineup for the game against Dallas.
Arthur, the Ducks looked better than they have all season, and they did it without Jason Blake. Would you say that had more to do with the message that scratching Blake may have sent to the other players or the line combinations that were made possible by not having the Top Six forward in the depth chart?
I don't want to say we're better off without the guy, so I'm going to say it was the message. I mean, he's a guaranteed shooter, and he puts out a lot of effort when he's on the ice, mistakes in the Red Wings game aside. I don't think that we're better off with Aaron Voros or anything. However, I will admit that there's an element of line construction being a little bit easier without Blake. Ryan worked very effectively on the second line, and a predominantly defensive line of Bodie, Carter and Marchant also proved successful. Blake isn't a two-way forward, so he's just not going to be as versatile out there as many of the other Anaheim players.
I really do think the message was clear with Blake scratched, just as it was with Ryan Carter taken off the scratch list. Consistency is important for this club, and there are plenty of players chomping at the bit, even as the injuries mount. This team can't wait as players perform short of their potential. If Randy Carlyle can't lean on your for every shift, you're no good to him. You and I said it last year, and I think it's true again this year. That pencil is a valuable coaching tool. It may not catch the WORST player on the team, but everyone takes notice once it scratches its victim.
I'm going to say it was beneficial to have him out. Jason Blake has been semi superfluous ever since the Ducks acquired him. He was really good on the second line at the end of they year, but there's an outside chance it was just as much Selanne-Koivu as it was his effort. Blake plays hard, and you have to appreciate that. But when Lupul comes back, there just won't be enough space for a former sniper, no matter how hard he plays. It's impossible to ignore how good the line combinations were tonight. The Carter-Marchant-Bodie line stuck out to me as being particularly effective and dangerous enough to make sure Carlyle kept rolling them over the boards.
This was one of the best games I've seen the Ducks play all year. They bent, but they didn't break. The lines stuck together and had some really good looking chemistry. It can't be ignored that it happened without Jason Blake in the lineup. Yes, Sexton and Lupul weren't there either, but they're an intricate part of the future. We wanted them. Blake is the guy we had to take to unload Giguere's contract. I'm not saying he isn't a good player, and I'm not saying he hasn't played well for us. I just don't think Blake fits well into what's going on for this team right now. Still, he's a good player and, by all my known accounts, a good guy. I hope it works out for him in some way, and he can continue to play but I think tonight proved that this team might be better without him.