Fourth line = money line for Canes
Posted April 23, 2009
"That's our goal. We have to just be better than their fourth line."
Jussi Jokinen's words after Thursday morning's game-day skate seem like the definition of modesty. The fourth line of the Carolina Hurricanes had been nothing short of stellar in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the New Jersey Devils.
Jokinen, Scott Walker and Ryan Bayda have each notched two points in the post-season. Do you like that balance? What's more, no Hurricanes line has tallied as many points as the fourth line's combined six.
The three combined goals from Bayda and Jokinen equal the goals production of Ray Whitney and Chad LaRose. Not to mention the timing of the scores - Jokinen's game-winner with 0.2 seconds remaining in Game Four, and Bayda's first of the playoffs tied up Game Three at 1-1 in the 1st period just 31 seconds after Zach Parise gave New Jersey an early lead.
"We've all seen this so many times," Paul Maurice said Thursday. "The players that play in third and fourth line roles are the difference in series, and the difference in the way the game is played."
But what has made the Hurricanes' fourth line so productive in the past few games?
The Canes' head coach offers this, "I think probably because fourth line guys adhere to the system and the game plan probably more frequently than anybody else because their skill level usually doesn't allow them to deviate. The coaches normally don't allow them to do it for more than a couple games. Because of that, they are easy to keep on task."
All-star center Eric Staal likes the fourth line contributions too. "They've just brought a lot of energy," Stall said on Thursday. "Their cycle game and their fore-checking ability have been real solid... It's huge if you can get help from those guys, and we need them to be huge again tonight and the rest of the way."
How about Ryan Bayda's playoff story thus far? The fourth-line left wing was scratched in Game One as Maurice favored Tim Conboy in the opening game line-up. Now, he's made his presence felt with two goals, tied for a team-high in the playoffs.
"Ryan Bayda is a very smart player, and a real determined hockey man," says Maurice. "These kind of games, in this series, have suited him."
Yep, these games have suited Bayda just fine. The twenty-eight year old told me the motivation wasn't necessarily increased by the decision to leave him out of Game One, but you have to think that had some sort of impact. It's nice to see Bayda rewarded with some meaningful playing time in the post-season, and even nicer to see the way he's responded. After five goals in seventy regular season games, Bayda has netted two goals in three post-season games.
"It's been good the last two games, we've just been keeping it simple," says Bayda.
Hey Ryan - Whatever you and your linemates are doing... Keep it up.