There have been few constants during this season of Ducks' Hockey especially when talking about personnel. A few months removed from Lupul goal counters, the lamentations of a lost Beauchemin and Brendan Mikkelsson (remember?!), we nervously watch our Ducks in the midst of one of the more ominous playoff matchups in recent memory (many here called this the matchup that tasted like fear). And though most paid critics had written off the Ducks before the offseason had even started, here we are on the precipice of Game 2 of the Quarterfinals as the 4th seed in arguably the strongest conference, the strongest division and tightest overall playoff race ever.
The Ducks galavanted off with the 4th seed riding one of the strongest individual performances ever by a Duck in the storyline of the last month and 2 weeks; Mr. Corey "Motherf**kin" Perry aka Clutch and his personal campaign for the Hart. However, lurking quietly under the feel-good stories of "The Ageless One-der" and "Emer-genc-y Backup Plan Homerun," was a not-so-feel-good-actually-houston-we-may-have-a-problem story of a team without a third line! Let me explain...
..."Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said he can still see some flaws in the 20-year-old’s game but also think he’s found a good mix with McMillan centering Sexton and Maxim Lapierre...
"I still think he’s got a lot to learn," Carlyle said. "Dan Sexton’s got some speed that opens things up for people too. We’ve been on this hockey club for the last three years to develop three solid lines that we can count on for some offense.
"It’s nice to see McMillan, Sexton and Lapierre [clicking]. We moved [Maxim] out of the middle to the wing and it seems to have solidified their positioning.
McMillan likes how the line is developing since they were put together after the All-Star break.
"We’re getting chemistry more and more every game," he said. "If we can keep gaining that, I think we’re going to be a really good line."
When asked how that chemistry has developed, McMillan pointed out the line’s primary role and each member’s best qualities.
"We’re a line that’s goingn to have to get the puck in deep," he said. "Sexy’s got great speed so if you can get the puck to him going down the wall, it’s going to be great. Max, he’s going to go in and take the man [and] separate the puck.
"That’s where Sexy and I come in. We’re going to have to go in there and support him. Really grind the other team’s [defensemen] out."...
-Known for Defense, McMillan gets offensive, Feb. 14, 2011, from the Orange County Register, written by Eric Stephens-
Remember that? I mean it isn't important now as we are now 2 months later and without the services of the Lapierre or Sexton (for now), but can you remember when the Ducks had a servicable third line? This season? And then can you remember that they dismantled it?
It was shortly after this that Ruutu was acquired from Ottawa and then we saw the mix and match begin again until another acquisition, the saucy "Mr. Worchershire" (and bye bye Lapierre, I liked your game *tear in eye*). Since then, the Ducks have more or less consistently paraded out the same troops night in and night out. Mickey continues to be a fixture on this line as does Winchester. And with the recent recall of the one called "Skey," Carlyle has just photo copied his lineup card for the last 2-3 weeks.
During this stretch, the the 3rd's offense has been non-existent (outside of a McMillan one man faceoff slam) and the defensive positioning has been C for average. So what is our 3rd line doing? In my eyes, not much of anything really. Well, that's not exactly true Winchester has been whistled for his lion's share of pointless penalties (sorry Skey, you too last night!)... Classy low-blow, but it's the truth. McMillan, for whatever oddly unexplainable reason, continues to get a pass being that he does a lot satisfactory; if he could just step it up a bit or get some damn help... Randy boy seems content with throwing Bobby in with Matt and Brandon and watching them flounder, while inexplicably giving more time to the Twins' personal pylon, Winchester. This can't be the serious remedy to this problem, can it?
If the Koivu- Selanne- Blake line is untouchable and so too are the twins, then it only makes sense to piece together the 3rd line from the bottom six spots. So there's Marchant, Parros, Ruutu, Winchester, McMillan, Beleskey, Sexton, Chipchura, and Bonino that seem to be viable options here. So who would you dress with those choices?
-Insert rant here about needing the Cleary-types and Moen-types to win in the playoffs-
The questions for my discussion here are simple:
Can the current Ducks' lineup beat this Nashville team?
Can the current Ducks' lineup go deep in the playoffs?
Of course, my answers are yes and yes since I roll with my team, but realistically, I do have tangible concerns as this team seems to lack that line that can be the odd welcomed surprise on the scoreboard, or just be pesky, slippery and/or slam-tastic (laying some serious hat as the footballers say). I for one would love to see the return of Dan Sexton with his dynamic energy or the Chippy Mr. Chippy digging in the corners and shooting the puck into the goalie's sabretooth crest (you never know when one will go through a goalie's sternum...); maybe even the return of no-goal-Bonino. All those sound great as long as we see a "rest period" for Winchester and maybe even Ruutu or Big George (whose been the best of those 3). Maybe something like this for the bottom 6:
Beleskey- Chipchura- McMillan
Ruutu- Marchant- Sexton
Bonino/Beleskey- McMillan- Sexton
Winchester- Marchant- Chipchura
or f**k it, put big George out with the Kids!
Beleskey/Sexton- Mcmillan - Parros
Ruutu- Marchant- Chipchura
Just some ideas stemming from the Ducks' seemingly lackluster performance in game 1...
Hopefully our boys come out and smash on these Preds tomorrow! Let me know what you think...
*Disclaimer: All bad jokes, cup-checks and baseless opinions are meant to be in the fun of the nervous energy in between crushing defeats and glorious victories of the playoffs. Be Lighthearted and Enjoy. Peace