They need a name. A catchy, snappy title like those given to great lines which dramatically alter games. Over the last couple weeks, Carl Hagelin, Evgeni Malkin, and Patric Hornqvist have formed the Penguins most usable and dynamic line. They also need a name. “Geno and the Swedes” doesn’t capture the spirit.
A couple of weeks ago, the eyes were ahead of the stat sheets. Hagelin started to find his stride, but fans grumbled. Media wondered. Carl Hagelin had only two goals this season and saw significant time beside all-world center Evgeni Malkin. This had to be a mistake, right? Wrong. The pair just needed one more ingredient. They needed the crazy Viking, Patric Hornqvist.
In fact, they all needed each other.
Carl Hagelin has points in three straight games, including a goal and an assist, Sunday against the New York Rangers. Hornqvist has a goal and an assist in his last three games. Since December 31, Evgeni Malkin has six goals and 11 points in seven games.
In part, thank Daniel Sprong. Sprong was called up for the New Years Eve game in Detroit. Within a couple of games, head coach Mike Sullivan juggled the lines to accommodate the rookie and balance the scoring.
As Sullivan juggled the lines, the Crash, Boom, Bang line was born. (We’re trying to make it stick).
Together, the trio has dominated opponents.
According to NaturalStatTrick.com (the link is to these direct stats): In the seven games since Sprong’s call-up, the Hagelin-Malkin-Hornqvist line has played nearly 38 minutes together, and their Corsi is almost 58%. However, when just one piece is removed, their Corsi drops by 10 points, to a below par, 47%. The sample size (about 38 minutes) is the same.
When all three are on the ice, they have doubled their opponents scoring chances, 22-11, and nearly doubled the high danger chances, 8-5.
Not only is the line dominating their time on the ice, but they are also dominating the other team’s best players. Against the Rangers, the line initially matched up against the Rangers second line with Michel Grabner, J.T. Miller, and Mats Zuccarello. However, the Rangers top line with Rick Nash, Mika Zibaenjad and Jesper Fast were creating chances against “Sid and the Kids” (Simon-Crosby-Sprong).
Trailing 2-1, the coaches adjusted the matchups, and Malkin’s line dominated Zibanejad for the remainder of the game. And, Crosby’s line found more success against Miller’s group. The coaches also got Crosby’s unit out against the Rangers fourth line, which led to Dominik Simon’s first NHL goal.
Malkin’s line taking the opponents best line has been a trend since Simon and Sprong joined the party. And, Malkin’s line dominating has also been a trend.
Against Boston, the Malkin line drew the unenviable task of starting against the best line in hockey: Patrice Bergeron, flanked by Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. The Malkin line drew first blood before the second period, team-wide meltdown.
Crosby, Sprong Can Breathe
The offensive explosion and defensive competence of the Hagelin-Malkin-Hornqvist line has allowed coaches to avoid giving Daniel Sprong long stretches of unfavorable matchups. Sprong and Simon have been given space to find their way with one of the all-time great centers, Crosby. The decreased burden–not playing against the opposition’s top line– has also factored into Crosby’s scoring tear.
Crosby has multiple points in four straight games Crosby has marked three goals and 11 points, in those four games.
Sullivan on Evgeni Malkin and the Line
When Sullivan put the line together, he spoke to Malkin.
“You’ve got to look to shoot more. You’re the most dangerous threat, scoring threat on that line,” Sullivan said. “If you (Malkin) have an opportunity to put the puck on the net, it’s going to give those other guys an opportunity to do what they do best.”
“Let (Hornqvist) go to the net, wreak havoc and bang a rebound in. Let (Hagelin) chase down a loose puck and help you get it back,” said Sullivan with a wry smile like he was both pleased with the results and letting the media in on a secret.
And that line has done precisely that. Crash, Boom, Bang. What do you think the line should be called? Comment below.