Line-Matching Fun

Matching lines an intricate cat-and-mouse game - The Globe and Mail

[...] In Boston, Julien has pretty much succeeded in getting his shutdown defence pair of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg to play against the Sedin twins. Julien will also put centre Patrice Bergeron, Boston’s best defensive forward, out against Henrik Sedin whenever possible [...]. Frequently, it is a cat-and-mouse game, which involves subtle intricacies such as splitting up defence pairs at a stoppage in play, so that only one defenceman needs to come off the ice, not both, when trying to get the desired match-up. It is why you’ll sometimes see [...] Andrew Ference and Chara [...] play together for a few seconds until the Bruins can determine which forward line the Canucks send out. If it’s Sedins, then Ference retreats to the bench in favor of Seidenberg. If it’s one of the other units, then Chara exits and Johnny Boychuk goes on [...]. By changing just one defenceman rather than the pair, you prevent that brief mad scramble to the bench [...]. It is a strategy that has worked for the most part for the Bruins, but backfired [at] the start of overtime in Game 2 here in Vancouver, [when] Julien split up his regular pairs and started Ference and Chara, unsure of who Vigneault would counter with off the opening face-off. It was the Sedin line - and the Bruins couldn’t get the defensive change made in time before Alex Burrows scored the winning goal 11 seconds into overtime.

Vigneault and Julien both [...] believe in playing the match-up game. Not every NHL coach does. Some will regularly concede the match-up in order to avoid the Grand Central Station-like confusion that changing on the fly sometimes causes - or the too-many-men on the ice penalties that sometimes follow. [...]

The Canucks and Bruins each had 5 bench penalties during the regular season, two more than the leader, DET. The Kings had 12, two fewer than the worst team, the Canadiens.

Tonight, Vigneault will work to get Ryan Kesler out against Bergeron, Henrik Sedin against David Krejci and hope that they can occasionally get the twins away from Chara. In this series, it has been easier said than done.

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