After two tough overtime losses fans, media members and even agents have been questioning whether Pete DeBoer will make any lineup changes for tonight's game three against the Los Angeles Kings.
According to multiple reports this morning, he won't. That doesn't mean he shouldn't.
The Devils are currently trailing the Los Angeles Kings 0-2 in their best of seven Stanley Cup Final series. The Devils arguably out-played the Kings during the latter stages of game 1 and most of game 2. A few lucky breaks here or there and the Devils could easily be going to Los Angeles up 2-0.
But they didn't get those breaks and can't just hope that those bounces will go their way. They've only gotten two goals so far this series, both from unlikely sources in Anton Volchenkov and Ryan Carter, and they need to do something to help them generate better scoring chances. Their top players do need to score, but they will take scoring and offensive creativity from anyone at this point.
There are only two realistic line change options the Devils could think about right now and they involve Petr Sykora and Adam Larsson.
I like Tallinder, but he has been out for the past four and a half months. Despite being the Devils top defender for the season and a half he has been on the team, I don't think it's fair to him or the team to drop him in the middle of the Stanley Cup finals and expect much out of him.
That leaves Sykora and Larsson. After the jump we will quickly look at each player, what he could have brought to the lineup and who would have come out of the lineup for him.
|2011 - Petr Sykora||82||21||23||44||4||40||4||0||6||170|
Sykora had played in every regular season game/playoff game until Jacob Josefson returned from injury, and has since been scratched. Sykora played most of the year with Patrik Elias/Dainius Zubrus and was an integral part of the success of this year's team. He came to camp as a tryout candidate and then proceeded to score 23 goals (21 regular season, 2 playoffs).
In the playoffs however he has looked a step slower than the competition and that step, especially in the defensive zone, could be a huge liability. As evidenced by his 323 career NHL goals, he can also put the puck in the net, a huge asset.
If he did come back where would he slot in? The top nine forwards aren't going anywhere. That leaves the fourth line group (Ryan Carter, Stephen Gionta and Steve Bernier) as possibilities for replacement. As much as we have been enamored with the fourth line's play it's important to note that they were on the ice for both goals against the Devils in game 2.
Personally, I might have tried swapping out Sykora for Bernier (2 goals in the playoffs) just based on Petr's scoring abilities, both on even strength and the power play, that he could bring to the table.
|2011 - Adam Larsson||65||2||16||18||-7||20||0||0||0||68|
You can debate the idea of putting Sykora back into the lineup. To me there is no debate regarding Adam Larsson. He should be in the lineup.
I've said this before but I want Larsson's passing abilities in the lineup. The Devils need an offensive spark at even strength and having cleaner opportunities when trying to exit the Devils zone and enter the Kings zone is imperative.
Larsson, who arguably scored one of the most important goals in the Devils current playoff run (Philadelphia, game 2), had seen playing time in five consecutive games, and the Devils had gone 4-1 when he was in the lineup. After the first game in the Rangers series, Larsson was quickly benched (for no apparent reason) in favor of Peter Harrold who Larsson should be replacing in the lineup.
This series has been and will be decided by even strength goals. I don't see either team giving up many opportunities on their penalty kill. If the Devils want to score they should be putting their best lineup out there that can accomplish that.
Larsson averaged 16 minutes of even strength time per game in the 5 games that he played compared to the 13 minutes of even strength time per game that Harrold averages. The only justifiable argument for playing Harrold over Larsson right now is the fact that Harrold plays on the second power play unit for about 2 minutes per game. Yes, that same power play that has been recently labeled as ‘disgusting'. Is Harrold really doing anything on that second power play unit Andy Greene couldn't? Besides being a right handed shot, what does he offer?
This late in the season you need your most talented players on the ice trying to make plays. Larsson should be on that ice.
All that said, unless something changes we are going to see the same lineup from games 1 and 2. I expect a ton of effort from New Jersey tonight and I both hope and think they can win. That said, I would be much more confident of them winning if they had both Sykora/Larsson in the lineup.