Hockey is particularly unique as one line can become greater than the sum of its parts. A player like Zach Aston-Reese can return to the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup after six months, and suddenly a grinding role player completes a shutdown line which turns into an attacking line.
It happened Thursday night as the Penguins beat the New York Islanders, 4-3 in a shootout, and the Penguins’ third line had the energy and spark that a good third line should have.
“They had a great game, all three of them, they brought a lot of energy,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “They played a fair amount together, as you know and they have some chemistry. There’s a comfort level there.”
Ordinarily, just one game would not be cause to praise a line. But there’s also a nearly 60 game sample size from last season.
Aston-Reese didn’t worry too much about the score sheet last season. He embraced the fourth line role and wrapped his arms around the defensive aspects. We chatted a few times about that (back in the good old days when a reporter could actually talk to the participants and get the little insights and context that form the bigger insights).