If Selfish Man isn't around I'll stick up for Pittsburgh here.
Herb Cain - Viktor Shuvalov - Carson Cooper
Slava Kozlov - Phat Wilson
Loui Eriksson - Jozef Golonka - Vincent Lukac
Slim Halderson - Dave Manson
Peter Zezel - Anders Kallur
Sylvain Lefebvre - Lee Fogolin Jr
Brian Skrudland - Radek Bonk
Dave Manson - Jason Smith
Lineup change: Radek Bonk will take Sinisalo's place in the lineup, in part to add more size against Kuhnackl, and also to augment Pittsburgh's strong cycle/grinding game from the bottom two lines. The bottom two lines will be shuffled to look like this:
Radek Bonk - Brian Skrudland - Loui Eriksson
Dallas Drake - Peter Zezel - Anders Kallur
Both lines will be more effective with their main goal-scoring threat on the right side, based on the handedness and history of the centres. The third line will be a big, defensively strong line that is very effective on the cycle. The fourth line will also receive a lot of playing time, and will be the go-to line in some defensive situations.
First off, really glad to see someone step up and speak for my opponents as Selfish Man was building a really good team until he left.
So let’s look at the matchups:
Line 1: My first line has everything you’d want in a 1st line. You have the glue guy in Thomas, the playmaker in Taylor and the goal scorer in Sheppard. Thomas will also score some goals. I expect Taylor to have his playmaking skills on full display during this series and set up plenty of opportunites for Thomas and Sheppard.
For my opponents you have a line of Herb Cain, Viktor Shuvalov and Carson Cooper. Cain is the goal scorer here, he was an impressive one in his day, scoring 30+ goals twice in a low scoring era. Shuvalov was a good team guy, often playing a defensive game and helping out the defensemen on his team. Carson Cooper is another fine player. This line is like my 1st line and will score plenty of goals. There is a lack of a playmaker on this but other than that it’s a fine 1st line.
Much like my 1st line, my 2nd line offers everything you’d want in a line, you have your playmaker in Stillman, a goal scorer in Kuhnhackl and a glue guy in Koroll. Stillman was drafted because of his playmaking abilities but he reads as a determined player who will be a locker room leader for my team. Kuhnhackl’s an interesting player. Called the best German to ever play hockey, he is credited with keeping German hockey afloat during his career. He even led the 1984 Olympics in scoring with 14 points in 6 games, I expect Kuhnhackl to have a quieter role on a more talented team but he should be fine. Cliff Koroll won’t score as many points as Kuhnhackl or Stillman but I expect him to provide the glue on this line and chip in offensively from time to time.
My opponents offer up a great 2nd line as well. Slava Kozlov is one of my favourite players and I find him under-rated. That said his physical game while alright is still not above average and it could hurt him against tougher opponents. Golonka, on the other hand, is a great all around player and was a fitting choice for your captaincy. He’s like Kuhnhackl and did wonders for his country in the field of hockey. I expect those 2 to match up well against 1 another. Vincent Lukac rounds out the line. Myself and MadArcand drafted Lukac in my first MLD and I remember being impressed with Lukac back then. Like Golonka he never played in the NHL but he played quite well for teams in Europe. This line could use a true grit guy but other than it’s fairly equal to my 2nd line. Our top 6 are almost mirror images of the other.
In drafting my 3rd line I drafted 3 guys who where noted 2 way guys. Brunette is noted more for his playmaking abilities but he plays an adequate defensive game and should be fine here. Kelly Kisio is one of those heart and soul guys that can do it all on the ice and help the team win hockey games. Tony Granato will be the goal scorer on this line but I also expect him to play a good 2 way game. Granato was noted for his dedication and feistiness throughout his career.
My oppontents offer more of a defensive 3rd line. Radek Bonk was drafted to be a dominant scorer but didn't pan out that way but this Ottawa fan remembers how good Bonk was defensively, he's a very solid choice for a checking line. Brian Skrudland was on my short list when I picked Kisio. Skrudland's a defensive player first and foremost and may not chip in much offensively, Skrudland also had a knack for taking bad penalties so watch out for that. I question Loui Eriksson on a checking line. The guy's developing into one of the better pure goal scorers in the league but I don't know how much of a defensive game he has. Your 3rd line has 3 decent players but all 3 of them have a weakness which may hurt them and cost your team.
We took different approaches to our 4th lines, I went offense with goal scorers Vail and Guryshev and playmaker Havlat while the Hornets went defense with Drake, Zezel and Kallur. Both approaches work as all 3 of my guys are good enough offensively to make up for any shortcoming they have defensively and Kallur was good offensively and both Drake and Zezel should chip in with the odd goal. I actually like my opponent's 4th line better. Drake and Zezel are good 4th liners in this and Kallur is a good 2 way guy. The 4th lines should not determine who wins this series though.
I'll be back tomorrow to compare the team defenses and goaltending but I look forward to more comments from whoever's looking after my opponent's team right now or any of the other GM's.
Still at work but we’re slower than Jason Allison now so I might get time to compare the 4th lines before I get off work.
Exhibit A as to how hockey doesn't matter on ESPN:
Last night an ESPN program was discussing how the Detroit Pistons needed a hero citing the heroes on the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Lions and no mention of the Detroit Red Wings. All this despite the Red Wings probably being the most succesful team in Detroit right now.
I see Pittsburgh's first line working like a Russian first line. Cain and Cooper are both skilled offensive forwards who will drive the attack, and Shuvalov plays a little more defensively. This will also allow Wilson or Halderson to activate and join the attack. I don't think they need a designated playmaker - any of the three can create offence.
Chicago's is a more conventional first line. Solid construction, good players, as long as you keep Taylor away from the bookies.
I have a lot of respect for Kuhnackl's upside. He's not a sure thing but he's a potential game breaker with his size, skill, and shot. I drafted Radek Bonk in part with him*in mind. But on further reflection I think Skrudland and Zezel will be fine against Kuhnackl - both have the physical strength and defensive play to match up against him.
Pittsburgh's plan with the third line is to have a line that's strong defensively, keeps possession, cycles the puck on offence, and can score goals. Think Ottawa's Arvedson-Bonk-Hossa line, with Eriksson in the Hossa role as the scorer. Eriksson may not be the best defensive player on the line but he has a very solid defensive reputation. He broke into the league as a checker before going on to play a scoring role. Here are some supporting quotes from Dallas sources:
Eriksson is perhaps the best player on this team, even better than Jamie Benn. He's about as well-rounded a hockey player as they come and he's easily the best two-way forward the Stars possess. It's understandable why the Stars would want to have him with Ribeiro, as his defensive ability would help the second line become more balanced while his puck possession skills would, in theory, help Ribeiro find his offense more consistently.
OK, that’s just my opinion and it comes with some qualifiers, but it speaks to just how important Eriksson is to the Stars for next season and years to come.
Yes, Eriksson still is underrated, but his run of three straight seasons of 70 or more points puts him in pretty elite company. He’s one of just*seven players in the NHL to pull off that trick (Steven Stamkos, Joe Thornton, Eric Staal, Martin St. Louis, Anze Kopitar*and Henrik Sedin are the others). And not since Mike Modano’s run of five straight 70-point seasons ended in 2004 has anyone done that for the Stars.
What’s great about the versatile forward is he solves so many of the Stars’ problems in the top six. He can play either right wing or left wing, he is the team’s most consistent offensive forward, and he’s probably the team’s most consistent defensive forward, as well (checker included). That means he pretty much helps everyone. He led the team in plus-minus at plus-18, and I definitely think that means something.
Eriksson has four significant offensive seasons in his career, but he's been a strong defensive player for all six of his NHL seasons. I think he's fine on a third line at this level.
Pittsburgh's fourth line is a bit overqualified for their role in some cases, and they'll definitely see a fair bit of ice time.
Chicago's left wingers are a good group of players, but they are generally more skilled, offensive players. Especially Stillman, Brunette, and Vail. Pittsburgh is generating a lot of their offence from the right side - does Chicago have the defensive play on the LW to limit that?
First off, thanks for the debate, overpass. As to your questions pertaining to my left winger's defensive play. I think both Brunette and Stillman are good enough to play defensive hockey against your right wingers. They play with defensive linemates so if they should falter their linemates should cover for them.
Also thanks for the clarification on Loui Eriksson. As I said the guy is one of my favourite players right. Just didn't know that he played a defensive game, thanks once again.
Now to comparing the defenses.
My first pairing of Jeff Brown and Joe Jerwa is the classic offensive d-man, stay at home d-man that every team should want. It also helps that Jerwa had an offensive edge to his game which should benefit both Brown, the guys he plays with and the defense as a whole. I plan on using this pairing quite a bit over the course of this series.
My opponent's 1st defensive pairing consists of Phat Wilson. Wilson is an impressive defenseman in his own right and should create many rushes for your 1st line, as my team has Jeff Brown you're going to need a good offensive defenseman to match up against him, looks like you did it here. Lee Fogolin Jr. is the defensive guy here, he's like Jerwa in terms of defensive play but doesn't seem to be as good as Jerwa defensively, that could hurt you in this match.
My 2nd pairing consists of John Van Boxmeer and Dave Lewis. Van Boxmeer may be a bit of a liability defensively but the guy a great 2nd option for an offensive defenseman on this team and I think his defensive shortcomings will be covered up by being paired up with Dave Lewis. Lewis is not going to do much offensively but he's a really good defensive defensemen. He's probably one of the better pure defensive defensemen in this series.
Pittsburgh's 2nd pairing consists of Slim Halderson and Sylvain Lefebvre. For a guy called Slim, Halderson certainly played big throughout his career. I expect nothing different from him here. I expect him to match up well with Van Boxmeer when it comes to offense. Sylvain Lefebvre is another player that I've always liked, the guy played rugged, I expect another good matchup between our 2nd pairings.
Bruce Driver and Billy Coutu was a pairing that was well-recieved among my fellow GM's and rightfully so. I think both guys are going to be an effective shutdown pairing with Driver quite able to spread the puck up the ice. Coutu is going to be a hard hitting #6 defenseman that's going to make teams less likely to score in the last few minutes of the game, I expect this pairing to do quite well in protecting my team from giving up goals late in games.
You went for 2 pure shutdown guys in Dave Manson and Jason Smith. Both guys are really able defensively but you may regret not drafting a good 2 way guy for this pairing especially going up against my bottom pairing of Driver and Coutu.
Final thoughts on the defensive matchups: I'd almost say both teams are equal on the defense. The Hornets though may suffer from not having that offensive option on the bottom pairing.
Will be back tomorrow to offer up comparisons between the goaltending and coaching/special teams/depth and offer my final thoughts on this series. Looking forward to a rebuttal from overpass.
I just want to emphasize one strength of the Hornets, and maybe their defining strength: rock-solid physical defensive defencemen.
Lee Fogolin, Sylvain Lefebvre, and Jason Smith were all 100% reliable, tough defenders who played a lot of shifts against the other team's stars. I have no idea which two Crisp would pick to kill a penalty, but it's hard to go wrong with any combination of the three. Manson was a bit more of a risk-taker, but brought an intimidating physical presence and played top-pairing minutes for much of his career. I don't have as many details on Wilson and Halderson's defensive games, but Halderson at least was an imposing physical presence, and physical play was a basic part of the job description for a defender of the 1920s and 1930s. Chicago has several forwards who can create offence in the offensive zone, but they won't have an easy time of it against this group.
Wilson and Halderson should be able to put their rushing ability to good use when playing with the first or second lines. Shuvalov's ability to hang back and cover is documented, and Golonka's smarts and tactical acumen will allow him to work with a rushing blueliner.
Yeah, I do like your group of defensemen. For a few seasons Jason Smith was one of the best pure defensive defensemen in the NHL. As I said I've always liked Lefebvre. Fogolin was good as well.
Now time to compare the goalies and coaches:
My goaltending pair of Ryan Miller and Gerry Mcneil are 2 good goalies, maybe they won't steal many games for me but I expect them to do quite well. Miller's been 1 of the top 10 goalies in the league since the lockout, Gerry Mcneil also had a pretty good career as Montreal's goalie.
Pete Peeters was my 2nd ever pick in the MLD (2010). He's one of the more under-appreciated goalies of all-time if you ask me. The numbers he put up during the run and gun 80's where pretty good. Felix Potvin can steal you a series, the guy played some great hockey for Toronto in the mid 90's and he did good for L.A. in 2001. That said he had a short peak. He's fine as a MLD backup.
The goaltending battle is almost to close to call between our teams, I think Peeters is a little better than Miller but Mcneil is better than Potvin, should be a great goalie battle here.
Marc Crawford is a coach I've always liked dating back to his days here in Newfoundland coaching the then Baby Leafs. The guy had good NHL success in Colorado and Vancouver, hoping he gets another chance in the NHL. He's a bit testy on times but sometimes that's good for a team.
Terry Crisp was always a good player and a decent coach, not sure if he should be a coach at this level but given the talent on your team he should be fine.
The coaches are both guys that won't help or hurt their clubs so this series won't be won on the coaching.
This is going to a close series, both teams have equal talent, there's no glaring weakness on the Hornets, while I expect my team to win, it'll be a close match, best of luck to the Hornets here.
I look forward to a future rebuttal from overpass.