So it turns out the lines were shaken, not stirred after all. Before tipping his hand, Jack Capuano said: "I just want to make sure certain guys complement one another in the roles they play and how they play those roles."
Capitals (9-2-0) @ Islanders (3-5-2)
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Jumping for Capitals Joy: Japers' Rink
Line-gazing is a fan parlor game that gets way more attention than it deserves, but let's take a look at the newly announced lines (which, of course, could change mid-game) and measure them by the standard Capuano mentioned:
*Isles tweet had Pandolfo and Martin swapped; Staple had them as listed above; both are left-shooting LWs.
Matt Moulson, John Tavares, Michael Grabner
Weakness: What this line misses in P.A. Parenteau's move is Parenteau's puck possession and underrated diligence on the forecheck, as well as his eager battling for pucks on the boards. Parenteau's all-around game will never get the full respect it deserves, but it could be missed.
Strength: Grabner's speed has a way of opening things up. Tavares's passing is magical and can feed Moulson in front of the net or Grabner on the counterattack. This doesn't strike me as an ideal mix -- Grabner's allowed to wander more with the defense-first Frans Nielsen as his center -- but we'll see what "shake" value this provides. If it gets Grabner more engaged 5-on-5, that's a plus.
Whatever happens, I fully expect sweeping judgments after a single-game sample.
Brian Rolston, Frans Nielsen, P.A. Parenteau
Weakness: Rolston has been a non-entity thus far. But he hasn't had functional linemates in Comeau and Bailey, either. Who's the chicken, who are the eggs? The results of this combo should say more about Rolston than it does about his new linemates.
Strength: Nielsen and Parenteau are two of the better puck managers on the team, so if you can't do good things with them, there's no hope. Will be curious to see if this becomes Capuano's defensive trio here. Rolston's done that before in his career, but is he up for it now, in his 4:30 cafeteria buffet years?
Whatever happens, I fully expect "Cap Mule" Rolston to be crucified by fans afterward.
Blake Comeau, Marty Reasoner, Kyle Okposo
Weakness: Two underachievers come together in Comeau and Okposo. But they are two who have had success in the past. They need revival in their game. Standing next to defensive specialist Reasoner, perhaps they see what becomes of your NHL career when you are drafted to score but fail to do so.
Strength: Reasoner is a better puckhandler than he's typically credited for. If the wingers actually forecheck, he can be the responsible one and make good decisions with turnovers that they force. This assumes the wingers bother to forecheck and go to the net though.
Whatever happens, I fully expect some COZOs (Comeau Offensive Zone Orbit) and frustration with Okposo not being the hitter people desire.
Matt Martin, Josh Bailey, Jay Pandolfo
Strength: Well, it gets Bailey and Comeau away from each other, to sprinkle their enigma dust elsewhere. Ironically, those two had their best game together in the 3-0 loss to the Jets. Martin gets shots on goal -- from pretty much any distance; maybe Bailey learns by example. Perhaps this is more a message-sending demotion for the 22-year-old.
Weakness: If Bailey isn't going to shoot, maybe he can focus on defense, but ... I don't like breaking up the existing fourth line -- Reasoner was doing his job, and Pandolfo and Martin were fine complementary parts.
Whatever happens, I fully expect people to say Micheal Haley should be called up.
Also, Rick DiPietro gets his third start in what now appears to be a process by Capuano to give each head of the three-headed goalie monster a run of consecutive starts. I have no brilliant ideas for how you manage three goalies when you ultimately want to trim it down to two, but this theory has merit.
(Whatever happens, I fully expect people to rage, rage on about the man with The Contract.)
If you missed it in the morning thread or haven't checked the FanShots, here is where you place your FIG picks for tonight.
The Opponent: Kinda Good
What's to be said about the Capitals? Tomas Vokoun's misread of the goalie market was their gain. They're off to a fantastic start. Everyone will say their 9-2 start means nothing until they do it in the playoffs. But as anyone who lived through or carefully studied the Islanders dynasty and pre-dynasty years knows, you need to make sure you get there first before you can "prove it" in the playoffs.
To nod to Military Appreciation Night, with Veterans' Day approaching: If the regular season is the infantry deployment of the NHL season, the Capitals' troops have good morale and are getting the job done. Their field general -- who does not look like he's been through a boot camp in decades -- should be pleased.
Of mild hope for the Islanders: The Capitals are traveling on the second end of back-to-backs -- their first of the season -- having methodically destroyed the Hurricanes 5-1 last night. So ... fatigue or "take 'em lightly" maybe? Also, Mike Green remains out with an ankle issue, which hurts but hasn't exactly slowed them down much.
For more on the Capitals, do check out Japers' Rink and spin you dial pretty much anywhere on the site. You'll find every angle on the Caps.
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Beyond those modest reasons for hope and the curiosity of the line shakeup, on nights like this I come back to one truth: Hockey is still a cruel game: Sometimes you outchance and lose, sometimes you're outchanced and win. I'll take the latter, please.