Great to see Maclean make the line change Sunday night moving Zibanejad to Smith's line as I recommended. Who said fans can't have a positive impact on their team's strategy?!
Zibanejad the right man to check Malkin
Dear Sens fans,
The Ottawa Senators will need to make some line changes for Game 2 of their quarter final match up against the Pittsburgh Penguins Friday night if they want to stop Evgeni Malkin from cruising through the slot at will.
Sunday evening, the Penguins second Best Player in hockey showed why he’s so dangerous around the net, by scoring the game winning goal and setting up another on his way to being named the Game’s first star. If you want to win in the playoffs, you can’t let the other team’s stars roam freely in your own end. While its no easy task for any team, to beat the Penguins, you must shut down Malkin and Crosby or you will lose.
Zach Smith’s line of Smith, Chris Neil and Matt Kassian did their best to stop Malkin but could not keep up with the sleek skater. Ottawa, having relied heavily on their defensive tandems to shut down Montreal’s top players, clearly needs their forwards to join in the task of slowing down the Penguins stars.
One of the adjustments I would like to see the Sens make in Game 2 to address this issue is to assign Senators rookie Mika Zibanejad the task of shadowing Evgeni Malkin around the ice. It was once common practice in the NHL to match defensive forwards against offensive stars. While Ottawa doesn’t have a traditional checking third line centre, they do have a very skilled, quick and intelligent rookie who, I believe, would relish the opportunity to go head-to-head with one of the best players in the game. It would certainly be a good test of Zibanejad’s ability to adjust his game to be more defensive. A challenge only a future star could tackle. And, Zibanejad is definitely that!
Replacing Kassian with Zibanejad on Smith’s line will give Smith's line the ability to check Malkin more closely and score more readily on the counter attack when the opportunity presents itself.
Certainly, if Ottawa doesn’t do something to stop Malkin and Crosby, this will be a short series.