It is tempting here to go with the New Jersey Devils checking line as the benchmark, but the Ducks and Devils had an important common opponent late in the year – the Ottawa Senators in the playoffs and the “top line” benchmark. The Ottawa top line was 9-14-23, +18 in a five-game series win in the conference semi-final against New Jersey, but they managed only 5-3-8, -9 in a five-game series loss in the final to Anaheim.
This trio was at the bottom of the team ranking in plus-minus for the regular season (occupying three of the bottom four slots), but that is not surprising. The
The Capitals (projected) – Matt Pettinger, Boyd Gordon, Chris Clark
-- Chris Clark, who has set career bests in goal scoring in each of his two years with the Caps (20 in 2005-2006, 30 last season), has a knack for finding the back of the net without being a pure shooter – he finds a way.
-- Matt Pettinger, when he can avoid injury (he’s missed 29 games over the last two years), has quietly improved his own goal scoring production the past couple of years (20 in 2005-2006, 16 last year) without sacrificing a crash-and-bang style.
-- Boyd Gordon – “Muffin,” if you will – is not a shooter in the sense Ovechkin or Semin are, or even Clark for that matter, but has shown goal-scoring progress in his junior (10-12-22-33 in his four years at Red Deer) and minor-league (5-17-16 over three years, the last in only 58 games at Portland) development. That might be an untapped element of his game at this level.
This is a group that could combine for 50 goals…but that is not what their principal (or even most valuable) role could be. They could be a real throwback to the “Plumbers Line" (Gaetan Duchesne, Greg Adams, and Craig Laughlin) – a lunch pail group that is difficult to play against, yet can pot the occasional (or even more than occasional) goal. The Peerless thinks this group has it in them to be not only the best “in your face” line (we find “checking line” a bit limiting here) in the history of the franchise, but one of the best in the league this year.
The season might start without this group in place.
Can this group meet the benchmark set by
There is also the matter of when (or even if) this group plays as a unit. Much depends on what happens with the top two lines and where Chris Clark ends up. If