Prior to Game Two, coach John Tortorella made a key decision for his lineup just before puck drop. With Brian Boyle able to play, Tortorella had to decide to sit one of Steve Eminger or Stu Bickel. Both played in Game One, and neither hit five minutes of ice time. Bickel has not been seeing anywhere near the ice time he saw in the regular season, and Eminger has only played in one playoff game since permanently losing his spot to Bickel.
After Bickel’s giveaway led to the Mike Knuble goal on Monday, Bickel saw just one more shift, and it wasn’t until midway through the second period. After that one shift, he didn’t play again for the rest of the game.
So now it is likely that Eminger will be inserted into the lineup. With Bickel in the chateau-bow-wow, it only makes logical sense that Eminger will dress in Bickel’s place. But dressing Eminger comes with some uncertainty as he has not been the same Steve Eminger since separating his shoulder in December.
When it comes to expectations, it might be best to have no expectations. It is unlikely that Eminger will even see more than five minutes of ice time, as Torts seems to be riding his top five defensemen rather consistently this postseason. In fact, Eminger may wind up with the same amount of ice time as Bickel, so the difference in dressing one over the other may be relatively small.
Another factor to consider is that Eminger’s foot speed is better than Bickel’s –albeit marginally– so he may be better suited against a skill team like Washington. Where Bickel faltered because he stumbled to a loose puck and was rushed into giving it away, Eminger’s better skating ability might not have caused that same turnover. It’s dangerous when you play with hypothetical situations, but it has to be considered.
What Eminger lacks is the toughness that Bickel would bring to the lineup. This series hasn’t been like the Ottawa series yet, as there hasn’t been much “dirty” play, but the presence of Bickel is something that is noted by the opposition. Eminger does not bring that intimidation factor.
Torts is likely going to make the right move in sitting Bickel for Eminger tonight, and there really is nothing to lose. Bickel was not playing much, and likely wasn’t going to play at all following that awful turnover. Seeing what Eminger has to give to the lineup –at his real position– is a low risk switch that may pay great dividends if Eminger shows he can be a more useful piece than Bickel.