Rangers third line needed a shakeup

The Rangers shook up their lines this morning, moving Kaapo Kakko back to the top line and flipping him with Jimmy Vesey. The immediate observation is the Rangers third line, which looked pretty good recently, was broken up. Some were upset, but aside from getting the top line going, that Rangers third line trio was also fading. This shakeup came at the perfect time.

The Rangers third line was looking very good for their first 7 games, but some of that nice play has worn off. There isn’t one specific reason for this either. The line got hot, then cooled off. Some of it is likely matchup related, as 4 of the last 5 games were away games and 5 of the first 7 were home games. But any good line should overcome such matchup discrepancies, or at least tread water. This is a huge contrast.

If it’s entirely matchup related, then splitting the Rangers third line up is the right move for now. Competition only gets tougher in the playoffs, and if they can’t survive against better competition, then they aren’t a true third line. This is also a good case for a true 3C, improving the third line while simultaneously improving the 4th line by shifting Jonny Brodzinski down a spot.

The goal is to bring balance and depth to the force lineup for a deep playoff run. Brodzinski is a solid 4C who has shown he can play up to 3C. Kakko can seemingly play anywhere effectively, but a true Stanley Cup competing team has him on the third line, filling in on the top line in a pinch. He and Cuylle are the anchors of the Rangers third line.

Remember, the 2014 Rangers had a great third line with Benoit Pouliot, Derick Brassard, and Mats Zuccarello. Of course two of those guys were eventually top line players, so the comparison isn’t the greatest, but it’s the type of line the Rangers need to have the scoring depth needed to win a Cup. This iteration of the Rangers third line didn’t have that consistent offensive punch.

That same 2014 team had a great shutdown fourth line of Dominic Moore, Brian Boyle, and Derek Dorsett (or Dan Carcillo). Can Brodzinski, Vesey, and Barclay Goodrow be that line? Possibly, although the wild card is Goodrow, not Brodzinski.

The Rangers third line, at least the fun version we saw this month, has lost its luster. And that’s perfectly fine. The Rangers are building for a long playoff run, which means they need depth and options. The depth is coming with the trade deadline, and the options come from these small changes. It’s all part of the plan.


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