Saturday, October 17, 2009

Four Lines Deep - 10/17/09

I know, I know. Every new post is a new recurring column.'s another one. Four Lines Deep is a brief preview and/or thoughts about an upcoming game. It's probably going to be about four distinct thoughts, just to give the title some extra punch.

First Line:  With such a young team, LA has exceeded expectations thus far. They've lost road games to New York and Detroit, but New York is red hot and Detroit is never a very accommodating host. At the very least, you know that Detroit was taking out some frustration from the drubbing they took in Buffalo. I digress. LA is young, but they are skating hard. Quick is emerging as a very dependable netminder and they obviously have a true scorer in Kopitar on the first line. Which brings me to my point. We have to shut down their top line. It's been a daunting task so far this year. Kopitar and Smyth have 20 points between the two of them and the first line has accounted for more than half the team's goals.

Second Line: The Buckeyes have problems on offense. Sorry, I digress yet again. As has been discussed to great length by fans and pundits, our entire defensive unit is going to have to elevate their level of play. Much has been made of the expectations on Methot - which is valid - but the entire unit has to step up. Neither Stralman nor Roy have been in a position to carry big minutes on a consistent basis in the NHL. They will now. I noticed that the team was spending a lot of practice time on transition drills on Thursday. Getting the puck out of danger with a smart first touch and moving it through the neutral zone with a pass on the tape will be absolutely crucial against the Kings.  Hejda is an absolute master at that, and the Jackets' young defensemen have to stay true to that commitment in his absence.

Third Line: Brassard took some steps earlier in the week vs. Calgary. One can see that he's becoming a little more relaxed on the ice and the game's starting to slow down again for him. He missed a beautiful goal by only the smallest fraction of iron the other night, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him notch his first of the season tonight. And I would bet that it comes off a break-out. He was nearly invisible in the first couple games of the last road trip, and if we're going to be a consistent road team in the Western Conference, we need to have our top center playing with consistency. Clearly, he has to be better in the faceoff circle. But I can't imagine that Hitch is going to mess with the great chemistry on the second line anytime soon, so Brassard should continue to get a lot of opportunities in the faceoff circle. He's a fierce competitor and he'll figure out how to refine his technique before long.

Fourth Line: The crowd has to show up. Many fans, such as myself, follow the Buckeyes. Tough day - but we have to keep up the energy. Think Calgary is looking forward to their next home game with us? With another extended road trip on the horizon, we have to get two points in the cozy confines of Nationwide whenever we have the chance. I dont' know why, but I have a feeling tonight could be the first overtime tilt of the new season. We have plenty of skill to get the win in extended time and LA is likely tired at the end of such a long roady. LA has been in some loud barns the last few games -- let's hope Nationwide is as hostile as it can be.

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