Last night's game highlights something that has been lacking from the New Jersey Devils for a while: a 3rd/ 4th line that can go out there, make big hits and help turn momentum by scoring occassionally. Unfortunately for the Devils, Atlanta's line of Boulton, Slater and Thorburn dubbed as "the Greek gods" provided a majority of Atlanta's offense last night. Now it is true that most of their points occured after the game was already over. But good things happen to scrappers who hustle and plug away. Things like a dump-in bouncing off a goaltender and turning into a "gimmie goal" are a good example of that (Goal 6). Besides a puck rushing offensive defensemen, this has been one of the Devils biggest needs for a long time.
Now back in October, user slackdog_rm commented that since the salary cap, it isn't possible to have 3rd line talent on the 4th line.
In the early 1990s, the duo of Doug Brown and Pat Conacher shut down many opponents and masterfully put the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Penguins on edge during the 1991 playoffs. In the mid-1990s, it was the Crash line of Holik, McKay and Peluso. And in the the 2000s, it was Madden and Pandolfo. All of these lines had a respectable plus/ minus in the face of the opposition's best, provided the team with needed energy and all won the fans' hearts. Momentum is a necessary thing in sports, especially hockey. The beauty of the sport is that it doesn't always have to come from a goal scored. It can be a big save, a guy who blocks a couple shots in a row, a big open ice hit or a fight at the right time.
Pure and simple: The Devils don't have many momentum changers now. A good 4th line could take on many flavors: shutdown line or a group that goes out there and fights or bangs people around. The most recent candidates: Clarkson, PL3, Mair have not lived up to the expectations.
User David Fine tried to show that the Devils fighting early has resulted in better results in a post that I thought demanded more attention. The Devils have trailed a lot early on. The momentum needs to shift there in the first period.
I would also like to see the Devils add character players for the fourth line, the 4th line is not a tryout line, it has a purpose.
Of course, the Devils have a mess of other issues here. But just focusing on the 4th (or even parts of the 3rd), what could be done?
1) Who in the Devils current system has the potential to provide that extra punch?
2) What team in the NHL do you think has the best 4th line?