TIME FOR THREE HEADED MONSTER

7.04/05.15

How about a three-headed monster?

There will be plenty of analysis and discussion between now and October about which Penguins superstar will get new teammate Phil Kessel on his line. Both Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby need a finisher and Kessel should score 40 with either one.

He’s that good.

So, maybe it really doesn’t make much difference where Penguins’ coach Mike Johnston decides to put him. After watching Kessel’s highlights on Youtube, I tried to imagine what it would be like trying to stop a line made up of all three.

I know. That’s not going to happen, at least not on a regular basis. NHL teams just don’t make a habit of putting all their offense in one basket, but, if I were Johnston, I would spend a lot of time in training camp working the three of them together.

I’d like to see them get more than a little time together in exhibition games.

How would you like to be a defenseman trying to pick which of the three to focus on if they came into your zone with speed?

There are all kinds of suggestions out there for increasing scoring in the NHL. Enlarge the nets. Shrink the equipment, outlaw blocking shots, enforce the rules, none of which will happen any time soon.

So, how about thinking outside the box and making a habit out of playing the Big 3 on the same line?
It doesn’t have to be permanent, but it doesn’t have to be rare, either.

Forget all the legitimate, time-tested reasons for not doing it.

Find out how the opponent reacts to starting the game with the prospect of containing Crosby, Malkin and Kessel.

Everybody complains about the NHL becoming a defense first, system oriented game. When a team wins 6-5, you can count on the players spending more time apologizing for the five they gave up than celebrating the six they scored.

“Scoring six tonight was great, but we can’t count on doing that every game.”

There haven’t been five teams in NHL history who have had three offensive talents as explosive as the three the Penguins have now.

You know what Crosby and Malkin can do one-on-one. Kessel is quick with great hands and a shot that may be better than both.

The Penguins have tried the two-headed monster of Malkin and Crosby with limited success, but that has usually been when the Penguins were behind and looking for a spark.

And two world class offensive weapons are much easier to deal with than three.

How about a spark on the opening face-off?

Make opponents prove early on that they can keep the Big 3 from scoring. Especially at home when the last line change creates major mismatches.

Instead of focusing on the problems that playing them together on the same line might create for their other line combinations, the Penguins should focus on the problems it would create for their opponents.

The Penguins have the ability to present a combination of speed, skill and scoring ability that no other team has.

They should make their opponents prove that they can stop it.

I’ll bet they can’t.