Heading into Game 3, Erik Haula, James Neal, and David Perron had been fairly flat in the Stanley Cup Final. Then Game 3 happened, and second line struggle has turned to second line disaster.
We have to put pucks in, you have a little bit of time, you think you can make a play, have some room to skate, and then it gets clogged up pretty quick. For us, we have to simplify. It’s something we talked about. But I just think we’re just not there. We’re a second late on pucks. Or support. We’ll fix it. -James Neal
In 180 minutes of hockey, the trio has a combined three points (1 goal, 2 assists), just 10 shots on goal, seven shots blocked, seven missed shots, and a whopping -9 rating. All three are under 45%, they’ve allowed 12 high dangers chances while creating just three, and worst of all, they were on the ice for all three goals in Game 3.
It’s big, obviously the matchups. We did a really good job getting lines out there when we needed to. -Jay Beagle, Washington forward
It was glaringly obvious that the second line was having trouble creating any real threat. Neal’s laser of a goal in Game 2 is the line’s only goal, and it took an incredible individual effort rather than team play to score it. Plus, even that lost its luster after Don Cherry pointed out Neal’s shot was slightly deflected off Washington’s Michal Kempny’s stick.
They’ve had their moments, and yeah, we know they’re going to get chances. The more we can keep them off the scoreboard and frustrate them as much as possible. -John Carlson, Washington defenseman
The Golden Knights fourth line has majorly outperformed the second in this series. On top of killing penalties, blocking shots, and wearing out players, the Golden Knights bottom line of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Tomas Nosek, and Ryan Reaves are +11 with six points (4 goals, 2 assists) in the Stanley Cup Final. Those are numbers the second line should have after three games.
I thought they defended well. We were getting clogged up a little bit. They sit back. We gotta get pucks to the net. We didn’t have enough shots. We didn’t have enough bodies going to the net. They outbattled us. We’re going to look at that and fix it. -Neal
Neal sounded confident after Game 3, even going as far as guaranteeing it will be their best game yet in Game 4. That is of course if Jack Adams finalist Gerard Gallant doesn’t tinker with the lineup, which after the last two games, seems like it’s probably necessary.
Our suggestion: Put Tomas Tatar back in the lineup for Ryan Carpenter and switch David Perron and Alex Tuch. This should inject a little offense into both lines and give the Capitals a much different look from what they’ve seen in the first three games.
Either way though, lineup changes or not, Haula, Neal, and Perron must be better, in both ends, because when Tomas Nosek carries the team offensively, they’re going to end up on the wrong side of the scoreboard more often than not.