I know, blasphemy. All I can say is read the reasoning before bashing me, please :D
Here is the argument.
If the Sedins are kept together, they will either draw the top defense pair of the Sharks, or the #2 unit. I will explain my thesis with each of those two scenarios in mind. I'll start with scenario #1, which is if Mclellan matches his top D-pairing against the Sedins-Burrows line. This would mean that Kesler's line would be matched against SJ's #2 unit, and that the Canucks 3rd line would be matched up against San Jose's #3 unit. This scenario leaves the Canucks with one favorable matchup, the Kesler line matchup against SJ's #2 unit, one normal match up between both team's 3rd lines, and then the match-up of the top lines, which, with an injured Henrik, may not be the best for the Canucks.
Why not? For one, all it takes it one big body check from Doug Murray on Henrik Sedin to slow him down to the point where he may have to sit. But, the threat of greater injury aside, here is the main reasoning. One favorable matchup for the Canucks will not be enough to succeed against a Sharks team with 3 scoring lines. To match the depth of the Sharks, the Canucks need production at least from one of the Sedins, and Burrows, if not all three of them. And if those three are all put together, that's an all-in-one-basket scenario. They could all get shut down together. Henrik obviously can't be as effective as he usually is against top shutdown units if he's injured. And as a result, there is a trickle-effect to his linemates. Burrows can't be as effective without a healthy centerman, and neither can Daniel. This matchup could end up, in a way, wasting three of the Canucks most important forwards. And if that happens, you're laying all your hopes on the Kesler line, and to a smaller extent the 3rd line. That can't happen if the Canucks expect to win.
This brings me to why breaking up the Sedins, or rather, the top line in general, could work wonders. See, remember how everyone (here as well) has said that the Sharks' biggest weakness is their depth on defense? Their 2nd and 3rd pairings after Boyle-Murray? Well, then you take advantage of that! By breaking up the Sedins, you create a scenario where one of H. Sedin, D. Sedin, or Kesler gets to go up against the Sharks #3 unit and 3rd defense pair.
I will explain. Scenario 1a: H. Sedin is moved down to the 3rd line, Hodgson or Lapierre is moved up to the top line. Now you have a scenario where Mclellan would likely put his top shutdown unit against the Kesler line, his #2 unit against Burrows-Lapierre/Hodgson-D. Sedin, and his #3 unit against Hansen-H. Sedin-Samuelsson (if healthy, or you might play Tambellini in this situation and push Torres to the 4th line since Samuelsson isn't healthy).
Now, maybe the one knock on the Sedins, even while healthy, is that they are not physical, and do not respond well to physically. This new match-up creates many advantageous situations. One of them is that it takes both Sedins away from Doug Murray. Instead, it puts Murray up against Kesler, who is better equipped than either Sedin (or most anyone else on the Nucks) to absorb Murray's physicality, and then beat him with superior speed and skill, and his own physicality. In fact, Kesler would probably even slow Murray down a bit, and bruise him a little bit back. This cannot be said for the Sedins. A physical match-up like this might be even bring out the be(strikethrough)a(/strikethrough)st in Ryan Kesler, whereas it would could very well do the opposite for the Sedins.
And the best part is that how Kesler fares against Murray (and let's not forget he's also best equipped to really bang up Boyle all series long, which the Sedins wouldn't do, and which is extremely important) isn't the main point of this match-up, at all. The main point is what happens with the 3rd line, but I'll get to the new 1st line of Burrows-Hodgson/Lapierre-D. Sedin first. Now, I'm not saying this 1st line is improved without H. Sedin (even an injured H. Sedin), or that I like the idea of Lapierre or Hodgson centering the top line 5on5, but it does give Burrows and D. Sedin a healthy centerman to work off, and it improves the skating of this line, especially if Lapierre is the guy. However, the line itself is not improved in terms of skill. Even an injured H. Sedin, and the chemistry he has with his brother, is still much better than Hodgson or Lapierre. What does get improved, very significantly, is the match-up. Now you've created a scenario where 2/3 of your (normal) top line gets to go up against Niclas Wallin and Ian White, San Jose's 2nd defense pair. Burrows and particularly D. Sedin can really flourish in this scenario. If the Kesler match-up isn't still a favorable one (although it probably still would be, maybe an even better one given the potential to beat up Boyle more), this match-up certainly is much more favorable.
But here is the biggest reason for this match-up change. As I mentioned before, Henrik Sedin, in general but especially when injured, does not respond well to being physically battered. So then what more perfect a match-up for an injured Henrik than to go up against Vlasic and Demers, SJ's 3rd pairing? Going up against Murray could be a disaster, because you know Murray will target Henrik physically (maybe even with cheapshots), and I can't envision Henrik not being intimidated by that. SJ's 2nd pairing is a much better matchup for whoever faces it, but it still has Wallin who is physical. However, that's a big dropoff from Murray. But that 3rd pairing, Demers and Vlasic, is not physical at all. It is ideal for Henrik's skillsets. Demers may be feisty, and he does deliver some open ice hits, but along the boards, he doesn't have the size or strength to knock Sedin off the puck (neither does Vlasic), and he doesn't have the reach either. Remember, this is a 7th round pick from a year ago who came straight out of a lower junior league right to the NHL. He was a fantastic draft pick by Doug Wilson considering the round, and he's assimilated very well to playing in the NHL at such a young age, considering. But, he was always an offensive defenseman. He wasn't drafted for his shutdown ability. He has really surprised just by the fact that he can even play league-average positional defense, but at the same time, he does get babied by Mclellan, and he usually never has to go up against the likes of Henrik Sedin. But, if the Sedins are broken up, Mclellan will have no choice. If the Vancouver Canucks can get Henrik Sedin (or Kesler, or Daniel Sedin, pick your poison San Jose) playing regular shifts against the Vlasic-Demers pairing, that could be, what? An extra goal a game for the Canucks? 2 extra? I mean most teams, because they don't have Vancouver's depth, they have no way of getting matchups even half that advantageous against other teams. But this, Vancouver can get, and it is a matchup from heaven. And it can definitely be got. Vigneault just has to get by the stigma of separating the twins.
As for the line itself, it would also bring more depth into play for Vancouver. Hansen is an underrated player who has been struggling to produce a little bit recently, but he's always played exceptionally well with the Sedins. He has that Burrows-light skillset that really suits Henrik. He's so quick, he can chase down lose pucks on the cycle. He's a right hand shot, which Burrows isn't, and that actually adds a lot. You can even see how that makes a difference with San Jose. Mclellan used to play Heatley with Thornton, but it didn't work quite as well as they thought it should. Now Setoguchi plays with Thornton, and it's a huge difference. He gets open with his quickness, much like Hansen can, and that right hand shot is much easier for a left-handed passer to find.
It would be better if Samuelsson were healthy, but Tambellini could be played with this 3rd line. Otherwise, Raffi Torres has shown some scoring touch in the past. He also brings additional grit, and can also serve as sort of an enforcer on Henrik's behalf.
A lot of my reasoning for this concept of breaking up the Sedins was to create more than one favorable match-up for the Canucks. Going into the series, the Sharks 3rd line of Mitchell-Pavelski-Wellwood going up against Salo and Rome was supposed to be an advantage for the Sharks (and it will be if Vigneault does not utilize the strategy I'm describing here, which I doubt he will, and I'd be very worried about Salo and Rome vs these guys, as a side note), but if Henrik is dropped down to the 3rd line like I've described, now the Hansen-Henrik-Tambellini/Torres(or Lapierre/Hodgson) 3rd line is the Canucks advantage, because you have your All-Star playmaker in H. Sedin up against Demers and Vlasic. The Sharks big depth (aka 3rd line) advantage would be completely turned on them! And isn't that the whole point?
In conclusion (of scenario 1a), I will list the pros and cons of breaking up the Sedins, which in scenario 1a would be done by putting Henrik Sedin on the 3rd line.
• Burrows and Daniel get a healthy centerman to play with
• Burrows and Daniel get to play against the Sharks 2nd defense pair instead of the 1st, which could help their production immensely
• Lapierre and Hodgson both have had some trouble producing as of late. Burrows and Daniel could help bring one of them along, and in doing so, increase the Canucks depth production
• Kesler gets to match up against Boyle and Murray, and that is a match up which would result in beating up and slowing down Murray and especially Boyle much more than if those two got to play against the Sedins and Burrows. Boyle's play was admittedly already suffering as a result of fatigue in the LA series, but he claimed he changed his training routine before the Detroit series, and he has since played better. However, obviously if he was already feeling extensive fatigue in the first round, that means he is on the brink of even greater fatigue. Thus, the significance of Kesler (and everyone else) smashing and bettering him over the course of this series cannot be stressed enough, as Boyle's quickness, agility, and general puck-rushing ability (when not-fatigued) is probably the #1 key to SJ's game, and if he were worn down to a point of say, 50% effectiveness, that would probably be the difference in the series for Vancouver. So this pro cannot be stressed enough.
• Henrik gets to match up against Demers and Vlasic, which is a huge, huge, huge advantage for him over playing up against Murray. This new match-up against much less physical defenseman is beneficial to both his health, confidence, and production. It also turns San Jose's biggest advantage, their depth, completely on its head.
• Hansen, who much like Lapierre and Hodgson has been struggling to produce of late, gets to play with Henrik. Henrik can bring him along, which helps the Canucks depth more. It just helps the depth in general.
• Same thing with either Torres or Tambellini. They get to play with an all-star against the opposing 3rd unit. How often have any of them been able to say that???
• Henrik and Daniel don't get to play with each other, and they aren't used to playing apart. That chemistry is lost (but it's kind of been lost anyway since Henrik seemingly hasn't been healthy enough for that duo to make use of their chemistry very effectively so far)
• The tradeoff for having the 1st and 3rd lines get more favorable matchups is that Kesler's line has to face the top shutdown unit. I've already mentioned that there is also a big pro to this, Kesler beating up Boyle and Murray, and his being much better suited to absorbing Murray's physicality than the Sedins, but the con is that Kesler may have a harder time producing offensively, and that he himself might get some bruises, so to speak. However, if it's between him and the Sedins as to who is more suited to handling such bruises, I'm taking Kesler.
• Hodgson or Lapierre as the top line center, even though they only have to go up against the SJ's #2 unit (so really they'd be 2nd line center), is not ideal. However, Henrik wasn't exactly lighting it up in that role offensively or defensively. And this is the small con that allows the huge pros of Henrik getting to go up against Demers and Vlasic, and Burrows/Daniel against the 2nd shutdown unit, and that might even improve the production of Hodgson or Lapierre as well.
So it seems like the pros by far outweigh the cons.
As for scenario 2, (if Mclellan matches his top shutdown unit against Kesler to start), well it's actually the same as scenario 1, it turns out. That would mean that SJ's #2 shutdown unit would be up against the top line of Sedins/Burrows (to start). You'd move Henrik down to the 3rd line again, and things would just stay the same. Mclellan would still match his top shutdown unit against Kesler's line (even more than ever now that the Sedins wouldn't even be together), SJ's #2 unit would still stick with Daniel and Burrows (2/3 of the top line), as opposed to Henrik (1/3), and Henrik would still see the advantageous 3rd pair of Demers and Vlasic.
Now, 1b (and, as it turns out, 2b), is where Henrik isn't the one moved. As in, you keep Henrik and Burrows together, so that you avoid the con of having Hodgson or Lapierre as your 2nd line center. In this scenario, Daniel is the one who gets to have that great match-up against Demers and Vlasic. Since he's healthy, he can probably make use of this just as much as Henrik, or maybe even more. The downside to this is that Burrows still has an injured center, and now he doesn't even have a healthy Daniel to work off of. But, if Henrik can raise his game and produce against one of the top 2 pairings, then you have that production and Daniel's production against Demers and Vlasic.
Another scenario is you don't even have to separate the Sedins. You won't create the same advantageous matchups this way, but if you just moved Burrows down to the third line, in exchange for Hansen, then Burrows really gets a great matchup to strut his stuff, and kind of have it be his line, where he takes charge and makes the play against the 3rd pair of the Sharks. And then Hansen gets to play with the Sedins, and he really raises his game in that scenario, so I like that. But this is something that's been done before, and it's not quite the same idea as the rest of this post, because it doesn't create that key matchup that the other ideas do, which is where one of Henrik, Daniel, or Kesler gets to go up against Demers and Vlasic.
And that's really the key point to all of this. There are sub-points, like how having Kesler go up against Boyle and Murray would create much more wear and tear on those key defenseman for San Jose than if the Sedins went up against them. But that may very well happen anyway. There are other sub-points too, which I mentioned in the pros and cons list.
But I think the main, #1 point is to reverse the forward depth advantage San Jose currently holds. You take the 3rd line advantage they have going in, and you turn that on its heels. And, in doing that, you also give the injured, struggling Henrik Sedin a fantastic opportunity to produce, get his confidence and swagger back, and heal--or at least play like he's healed, and that can come from that confidence. Not to mention, I really think Hansen's game explodes into a totally different stratosphere playing alongside Henrik against Demers and Vlasic.
So that's the concept. Sorry it's long, but I really wanted to explain everything inside and out, given that the nature of such an idea. I personally wouldn't start game 1 like this, but if the Sedin line isn't playing well after 30 minutes, 35 minutes, or Murray is really beating up Henrik, then I do this. It doesn't even have to be a permanent change. You can just do five minute bursts where you do this change just so you can get Henrik and Hansen together out against Demers and Vlasic. You do this say, three times for, I don't know, five minute bursts throughout the game, you probably have an extra goal there, and you didn't even have the separate the twins for a whole 20 minute period. You only did it for 15 minutes. I think it can really be used sort of like a secret weapon. Not to mention, it will really, really catch Mclellan off guard. If there's one thing his coaching staff didn't prepare for, it's the Sedins getting separated. And I think that, along with everything else, could really make this a fruitful idea if Vigneault decides to do it.
What do you guys think? Is improving the 3rd line times 10 (or x amount, by a lot), and getting an injured Henrik out against the non-physical Demers and Vlasic worth losing Henrik and Daniel's chemistry? Are the pros I listed worth the cons? Am I forgetting any cons (or pros, for that matter)? Let me know what you think! And thanks very much for reading! :)
If Henrik Sedin is still playing with an injury, and the top line of the Sedins & Burrows continues to not produce well offensively against one of SJs top 2 defense pairings, do you, at some point as the series goes along (whether it be in the 3rd period
Yes, and if Sedins/Burrows don't look right off the hop, and aren't producing after a period or two, or maybe 1 game at most, I separate the Sedins early and often (3 votes)
Yes, but only after a couple/few games, if Sedins/Burrows aren't playing well together (7 votes)
No, I would never separate the Sedins, even to create better matchups, or to get one of them who is injured out against less physically punishing defenseman. Their chemistry together supersedes all other factors and potential benefits of them being apart. (12 votes)
22 total votes