Dejan Kovacevic wrote about it in the Trib. Here’s an exclamation point.
It’s time for Coach Dan Bylsma to stop screwing around and assemble his top two lines thusly (from left to right): Pascal Dupuis-Sidney Crosby-Jarome Iginla, Chris Kunitz-Evgeni Malkin-James Neal. Only Dupuis switches wings, and he’s never had a problem doing it. Everyone is in a place he perceives to be proper.
Now, not so much. Kunitz-Crosby-Dupuis is fine, and Crosby prefers that. But Byslma is the coach, and Crosby can prosper with anyone.
Neal-Malkin-Iginla (or Iginla-Malkin-Neal, whatever it is today) just isn’t working. Neal is much better at right wing than left wing. For Iginla, the situation is more extreme. He just can’t play left wing. He's lost there. Iginla has played right wing for 16 years.
Now is not the time for experimenting. The situation is particularly aggravating because Bylsma briefly tried the right combinations – THEY WORKED – then, out of nowhere, he went back to the wrong combinations.
This is horrific misuse of Iginla. Whether or not Iginla re-ups past this season is of zero concern. But it’s of utmost importance that he produces now.
Iginla has 10 points in nine games. But four of those points came on the power play. Iginla has just two goals. His stats are good. But are they good enough? Iginla’s play doesn’t pass the eye test. Not at left wing.
Neal, meanwhile, has just a goal and two assists in seven games. Neal is streaky. But jumping from wing to wing has him discombobulated.
Kunitz-Crosby-Dupuis is perceived as the best line in hockey. But last year, Kunitz-Malkin-Neal was the best line in hockey.
Is this about having the best line in hockey, or about winning the Stanley Cup?
Is this about being right, or about winning the Stanley Cup?
You can’t fault the Penguins’ production. They’re averaging 3.78 goals per game, best in the playoffs. But they could have used one more goal this past Sunday.
There are still 10 more games to win. How much would a red-hot Iginla contribute to that task? Or a more productive Neal?
Crosby, Dupuis and Kunitz are chameleons. They can adapt to anything, and play with anybody. Iginla, Malkin and Neal need a comfort zone. Provide it.
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