The first game of the regular season for the Pittsburgh Penguins was a shocker, to say the least. Well, a shocker in a good way. Defeating the reigning Stanley Cup champs, the Tampa Bay Lightning, 6-2? What a great start for Pittsburgh. Even better, it seems like the team found a reliable fourth line. While it may not seem like a big deal, the fourth line has a bigger impact than fans may think.
Huge First Impressions
With Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel all out for the first game, head coach Mike Sullivan juggled the lines thoroughly. Nearly every single line had a newcomer on it, meaning not every player has had the time to get used to each other’s play style. This didn’t seem like a problem to the fourth line as it looked like they all felt at home.
Brian Boyle had an immaculate first impression on the team for the regular season. Not even a full day had passed between the Penguins signing Boyle and him scoring his first goal with the team. Ripping a shot five-hole on Andrei Vasilevskiy, one of the best goalies in the league? Not too bad for the 36-year-old veteran in his first game.
Joining Boyle on the fourth line was prospect Drew O’Connor and Sam Lafferty. All eyes were on O’Connor after a stellar preseason, and he already notched an assist on Boyle’s goal. Lafferty is the most tenured Penguin on the line, and he also assisted on Boyle’s goal. All of this sounds fine and good, but what’s the big deal about a good fourth line?
Depth Is The Key
Many teams lack depth in their roster. Because of this, they are severely handicapped. Take the Edmonton Oilers as an example. Their first two lines have some of the best talent in the world with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Their next two lines? Pretty abysmal as they severely lack talent. This may not be the case for Pittsburgh.
This fourth line consisting of Boyle, O’Connor and Lafferty has promise. Sure, it’s a weird combination of youth and experience, but it has seemed to work fairly well. They brought the physicality to the ice and they certainly brought the hustle that seemed to wear the Lightning down. The fourth line was efficient in their play and showed great chemistry. However, Sullivan may have to break up the line.
Guentzel is cleared to return to the lineup, so Sullivan will have to juggle the lines once more. Guentzel will certainly return to his spot on the first line, and Danton Heinen will likely be moved down to Teddy Blueger‘s line. It’s predicted that Dominik Simon will take O’Connor’s spot, which could be a big mistake. However, management seems confident in Simon’s ability. Fans will just have to see how well it will work out.
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