The Montreal Canadiens played a terrible game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night. Giving up a three-goal lead and six unanswered goals is not a recipe for success. However, one of the lone bright spots in the game was the way the Canadiens’ fourth line roundly outplayed the Maple Leafs’ fourth line. The Maple Leafs’ fourth line is known for being very soft, despite having size. The Canadiens’ fourth line has recently improved drastically, giving it many options for speed, size, toughness, and defensive ability. This will really help the Canadiens win crucial games down the stretch.
The Canadiens have many configuration options for the fourth line. They can go with a speedier option, with Matthew Peca, recent acquisition Jordan Weal and Nicolas Deslauriers. Peca and Deslauriers have a lot of size and speed, and Weal has offensive upside. I believe that Weal in particular has some untapped offensive potential. If the Canadiens want to go with a hard-hitting fourth line, they can roll out Deslauriers, Thompson and Weise. These are all physical players who can pack a hit, punch or both. If the Canadiens want a defensive-minded, possession monster of a fourth line, they can roll out Peca/Weise, Thompson and Deslauriers. Thompson is a faceoff beast, Peca can really handle the puck and all of these players can play defense, Deslauriers perhaps less so. As you can see, there are many options for the fourth line for the Canadiens.
This variety is a huge asset for the Canadiens because they can adjust their fourth line to match their opponent’s fourth line night in, night out. If they are playing against a speedier fourth line, they can match the speed with Peca, Weal and Deslauriers, or a possession beast of a fourth line with Peca, Thompson and Deslauriers. A more physical fourth line from the opponents might require the employment of Weise, Thompson and Deslauriers, and a defensive fourth line from the opponents needs the speed option, mentioned above.
While the Canadiens’ fourth line hasn’t scored much, it reminds me of their fourth line a few years back, with Torrey Mitchell and Brian Flynn. This fourth line was very versatile, it could win faceoffs and create the occasional rush, and it was a possession beast. They helped win games for the Canadiens down the stretch, even if they didn’t get on the scoresheet much. They helped defensively, and they could get the puck moving towards the opponent’s zone, just like this year’s fourth line can. Let’s hope these new and improved fourth line configurations can do their part down the stretch this year as well. Go Habs go.
Signed, Le Bo