Being a coach in the NHL requires the ability to juggle. Not literally, though Bruce Cassidy has shown to be so good at the figurative kind it wouldn’t shock me if he could do it with balls or pucks as well.
This season for the Golden Knights there has been a constant struggle to remain healthy enough for long enough to keep a lineup intact from game to game. So, Cassidy has been forced to make a lot of decisions through his lineup to try and maximize the players he does have.
For the last 15 games, the same top line has been used and individually each of the three players has thrived. Since November 30th when Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, and Ivan Barbashev were put together they have combined for 19 goals and 50 points in 15 games. The team started hot with that group as the top line as well, going 7-1-1 in the first nine games.
But, the team has dropped five of the last six, all in regulation.
I look at them both as guys that drive lines. When they are on the same line it takes away from whatever line Stone comes from. You get extra with two drivers that seem to have really fed off one another but you are robbing Peter to pay Paul type of thing. -Cassidy
To make matters even more difficult, William Karlsson picked up an injury at the Winter Classic which will keep him out for each of the next two games. Cassidy says the loss of another key forward has essentially forced him to split apart Eichel and Stone.
We figured we may go back to (Stone with Stephenson and Eichel with Marchessault) and see if it balances us a little better. I consider Karlsson a driver of a line as well. We lose him in that sort of 3rd role so it’s going to be up to some younger guys to step up. -Cassidy
Balance was a key aspect of the Golden Knights’ success in the playoffs last year. They outscored opponents at 5-on-5 by 33 goals in 22 games. In the last nine games, with a more top-heavy lineup, Vegas is down 25-18 at 5-on-5
To turn things around, they need to get scoring from throughout the lineup rather than relying so much on the 1st line. Tomorrow against Florida will be the first look at a VGK lineup with Stone and Eichel on separate lines in over a month. It was a rough patch back then in late November that forced the move to put them together, now taking them back apart is the hopeful solution to get them out of the current skid.