One of the tricks that Anaheim Ducks fans have come to know and expect from Head Coach Bruce Boudreau when things aren't clicking for the team is to shuffle up the line combinations.
On Friday against the Carolina Hurricanes, Anaheim suffered their most lopsided defeat since a 5-0 setback at Tampa Bay on November 21, as the visitors scored the first three goals en route to a 5-1 win to close out an otherwise successful home stand. With Anaheim trailing 3-0 to start the third period, starting goalie John Gibson replaced by Frederik Andersen, Nate Thompson long since ejected after an ugly first period elbow to the head of Justin Faulk, and Ryan Getzlaf in the penalty box after having fought Ron Hainsey late in the second, Boudreau once more turned on the blender and shook up the lines.
While it's unclear how many of these lines will be used again, it's worth giving a second look to some of the groups put together once Getzlaf's fighting major expired. Though being comfortably behind surely fed in to the Ducks 16-7 shots on goal domination in the third period, as well as a 26-14 attempts edge, there were a few intriguing combinations that may be worth a second look.
Carl Hagelin - Rickard Rakell - Jakob Silfverberg
First and foremost would be the line that scored Anaheim's only goal on the evening featuring a trio of Swedish forwards. Naturally if they stick together folks will want to name the line, with 'Tre Kronor' or 'Swedish Meatballs' as likely possibilities playing off their shared heritage. As a personal suggestion, having grown up watching late 90's professional wrestling, a takeoff of the nWo of 'Too Swede' seems perfect. Imagine folks at Honda Center with one of the three player's jerseys throwing one of these up to each other, it'd be fantastic.
As for the actual performance of the line, the trio saw the second-most shifts in the third with four, and (based on reading back the play by play from NHL.com) out-attempted the Hurricanes by a 4-2 margin and forced a turnover. On paper it's a interesting line combination because it combines the offensive creativity of Rakell with the shooting ability of Silfverberg, and the speed and hustle of Hagelin. A couple questions it may face are whether or not the unit can get to the front of the net (though that's where Silfverberg's goal was scored), and whether they would have enough of a physical presence.
Andrew Cogliano - Ryan Kesler - Corey Perry
This group was far and away the most active and most consistently dangerous of the new combinations, and appropriately saw the most shifts from Boudreau. In their seven shifts, the trio put five shots on goal of their ten total attempts while allowing only four attempts with one on goal by Carolina. It's no surprise that for the whole period Kesler had the best shot attempt differential amongst forwards at +8, while both Perry and Cogliano were +7.
This was a game where with Getzlaf scuffling, Kesler put together the kind of gritty, 'get to the front of the net and be a pest' kind of game with a physical edge that did everything it could to wake the team up. It may be dangerous to have a line where the center is the skater in the offensive zone going to the front of the net, but with the speed and two-way awareness of Cogliano it could work. Intriguing as well is the possibility of Cogliano using his speed to carry-in, allowing Perry to lurk and find soft spots or work a physical game with Kesler. The unit was generally paired with the Hampus Lindholm-Josh Manson defensive duo, which while Manson's misread allowed the backbreaking goal, was Anaheim's best SAT differential-wise at +10 each.
Patrick Maroon - Getzlaf - Chris Stewart
Speaking of Jordan Staal's backbreaking fourth Carolina goal, this was the unit that was on ice for it. The big, physical group saw four shifts, and put all three of their shot attempts on goal while allowing the Hurricanes to put two of their three attempts on net. While imposing size-wise, the group wasn't able to establish a consistent cycle in the offensive zone, and didn't do much of any hitting. It felt like, and played like, a third line from days gone by, and likely would get sliced by a team attacking them with speed if used more regularly.
Rakell - Shawn Horcoff - Silfverberg
The only other line that saw more than one shift in the period was this combination, which wasn't able to generate anything towards the net offensively but didn't allow anything against either in their two opportunities. Thinking seemed to be similar as far as the Cogliano-Kesler-Perry trio by putting a grinding, 'get to the net' center with a creative offensive presence and a two-way forward. With only two shifts it's hard to judge whether there was any chemistry, but that two of the players saw more time with another forward and were able to generate more seems to speak to this as a piece of pasta that was throw at the wall to see if it stuck.
There were five other lines that were able to play a complete shift over the course of the third period. Getzlaf centering Rakell and Silfverberg allowed a shot attempt against; Horcoff between Maroon and Stewart allowed two shot attempts against with one going on goal; Mike Santorelli had a shift on the wing with Getzlaf and Marron that saw the Ducks turn the puck over and allow a shot on goal; Santorelli between Rakell and Silfverberg created a shot on goal; Getzlaf with Hagelin and Stewart had a shift. A number of shots and attempts occurred between shifts with the lines changing.
Of the lines that were tried, it would be interesting to see how the Too Swede line would fare if given an entire game. While there was nice pressure from Cogliano-Kesler-Perry, were to stay together it seems it could create an issue as far as what to do with Getzlaf. Should the captain move down the lineup and get put in a grinding type role? That hypothetical move seems a waste of his playmaking ability, as despite the rough start he's still far and away the team assist leader with 17.
It could be a case where with a game seemingly out of hand and the team in need of a spark playing without one of their regular centers, Boudreau decided 'damn the torpedoes' and wanted to see if there was anything else that could immediately come together. Thompson's hit was a disaster, not only in the optics but in how it unbalanced the lineup for the remainder of the evening. With a hearing coming on Monday, he may not be available for some of the coming road trip but will figure in the lines moving forward, which is another moving piece to consider.
What did you think of the line combinations used in the third period? Anything stand out? Share your thoughts below!