Cuylle’s First Game, Kravtsov Scratched, & More Line Blender

Uneventful would be a charitable way to talk about Will Cuylle’s first NHL game. His line got just over five minutes of ice time in Wednesday night’s game against the Leafs, low even for a fourth line. They were on the ice for the Leafs’ first goal of the night, which might’ve played a part in their deployment for the rest of the game. Cuylle did have one nice play in the third, where he skated by Matthews and made a nice dish to Gauthier for a scoring opportunity but otherwise didn’t stand out with his limited time. The real story of the night ended up not being a prospect’s first NHL game but the dazzling display from the Kid Line and the sharp drop-off in performance from the rest of the team. 

Gallant’s line blender continued in the OT loss, with Vesey playing top-line minutes after Kreider was demoted to the third line. That top-line combo struggled to generate offense, which highlights the decision to scratch Kravtsov again all the more baffling. On a team that wants to be a cup contender, it’s down two top-9 wingers to make a serious attempt at contention. So why scratch Kravtsov, who has more offensive upside than Goodrow or Vesey and has shown to be just as, if not more, defensively responsible?

These decisions have been pecked at all year long as fans bang the drum for fourth-line guys to play on the fourth line and for the kids to be put in positions to succeed. But even when the game starts out with lines that appear to appease most people, they never last. For all Gallant’s insistence that he’s just trying to win games, his lineups and deployments fly in the face of both analytics and eye tests and always cheat to the same end—vets over anything else. Regardless of the chemistry and results shown on any given night, in late-game situations, Gallant only trusts the vets to get the job done, even when they’re not. 

With just one more game before the All-Star Game break, we’ll doubtlessly see yet another new combo of lines. This begs the question—has there ever been a Stanley Cup-winning team whose line identity was this chaotic for this much of the season? If Gallant won’t let lines gel if he can’t be trusted to play his best players, if he refuses to run any sort of meritocracy to ice time, what is his winning strategy for the second half of the year? At this point, it’s clear he does not have one. Consider this an official vote of no confidence in Gallant.

In this week's episode, we have on guest HockeyStatMiner to discuss NYR's Salary cap situation, potential moves and more.How to support us and our sponsors:Columbia Sports ApparelESPN+ SubscriptionFanaticsDraft Kings – CODE ITRThanks for listening! Please rate and review our show on your favorite listening platform. Check out our partner's website at www.insidetherink.com for all your latest hockey news.
  1. Guest HockeyStatMiner
  2. Many Directions, One Goal
  3. A Heartbreaking End, Offseason Begins
  4. Game 5 Recap : Guest Joe Fortunato
  5. Game 4 Recap : Breakout Breakdown

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