If you ask any Golden Knights fan (or any VGK statistician for that matter) which forward lines score the most for our team, they’ll have two answers. They’ll say either the first or second line, or both.
Don’t get us wrong. Our third and fourth lines score goals too. Recently, however, they haven’t appeared as strong as we know they can be. We’re going to break down where the weaknesses may be and how the Golden Knights could possibly fix them.
Please note: we are aware that it’s still very early in the 2019-2020 season and things are subject to change.
Injuries and Competition: Behind the Third Line
First of all, the Golden Knights’ third line was not at the peak of health to start off the season. Alex Tuch was listed on a “week-to-week” basis with an upper body injury, and Cody Eakin was listed as “day-to-day.” Both players have been great scorers for the Golden Knights. Just look at their stats:
With two heavy-hitters out for Coach-only-knew how long, that meant management had to rely on some young guns. They had to call up players from the Chicago Wolves, and rely on current Golden Knights players Valentin Zykov and Brandon Pirri.
While Pirri and Zykov have already worked on establishing themselves on the team, the arrival of Cody Glass was a bit of a shake-up. I mean, Glass started in the home opener on the second line with Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty, and boy…did he ever prove himself!
Pirri and Zykov served on the third line, along with Paul Stastny, who was originally on the second line to begin with. Stastny would eventually return to the second line, but to watch that third line…was difficult.
The players didn’t mesh. They weren’t actively communicating. It seemed more as though Zykov and Pirri were trying to prove that they deserved to be on the second line rather than the newest guy. When Glass was moved to the third line, that line started to appear more cohesive, more even.
Pirri has been a scratch since Eakin is back, and Tuch’s return is looming. It’s possible there might be increased competition once more from the youngsters to secure their spot on the roster. If they really wanted to impress, however, perhaps they need to look more at how their gameplay is affecting the team instead of making them stand out individually.
Once Tuch is back though, we can expect to see a third line of Glass-Eakin-Tuch, since Glass has been consistently good this season. These three on a line together could be amazing and give the team 3 powerhouse lines… and a fourth line that produces also!
En-fourth-ers: Our Fourth Line Enforcers
We have enforcers on our other lines, but the fourth line is chock full of them. William Carrier and Ryan Reaves are two of the top 10 heaviest men on the team, and they’re all about checking themselves…before wrecking the other team.
I will give them credit. Though they’re more of our enforcement line, they have definitely stepped up the scoring already this year. Carrier has tallied up two goals, Reaves has one, and center Tomas Nosek has racked up 3. Last year, Nosek and Carrier both netted eight and Reaves netted nine.
These upticks in goals netted could be a saving grace for this line. As much as fans love the checking and the fighting, seeing this line rack up some points really impresses both the fans and management. Perhaps that would lead to more ice time?
As it is, the average time on ice between this line stands at around 10 minutes. Compare that to the TOI the first and second line get, that’s just scruples. Add in more TOI, and that would give them more of an opportunity to score perhaps.
An Overall Summation
Don’t read into this as a nit-picky dissection of our third and fourth lines. They’re not weak by any means. But, as with everything, there could be room for improvement.
Imagine if the third line meshed a little bit more and there wasn’t the need for competition between players to show who’s more worthy. What would happen if Reaves and Carrier got maybe 15 minutes of ice time?
Again, we know it’s early on in the season, and a couple losses doesn’t mean we should suddenly start panicking or making big changes. However if the players and coaching staff can figure out which player best fills the void of Alex Tuch on the third line, the Golden Knights could look even more unstoppable than they already do.