There are a lot of flaws in the Montreal Canadiens, but through two games they’re doing more than their fair share to frustrate the Pittsburgh Penguins, earning a split in the “road games” to start the series.
Now with the benefit of last change looming they can take advantage and with a simple change turn an area of weakness into a potential exploitation tool in game three.
Simply put, the Canadiens fourth line through two games has been woefully ineffective as a trio and it’s wasting one of the Habs best assets in Max Domi as he tries to draw offence out of Jordan Weal and Dale Weise. While Weal has his uses with some offensive know-how, it’s clear that Weise sticks out as the odd-man on the line. There are options for Claude Julien should he choose to shake up (and he should) his lines in game three. One option is to move Domi up the lineup, and drop a player like Paul Byron or the suddenly penalty-prone Joel Armia while inserting a new body such as Jake Evans or Charles Hudon, but there’s little to suggest the Habs bench boss will go that route.
If Julien is intent on sticking with four even lines, with Domi playing centre on the fourth line, the easiest option is to drop Dale Weise for someone more offensively inclined. Personally, in the role he’d be filling, I think Jake Evans is exactly what the fourth line needs. He plays a defensively responsible game to help with some of Domi’s flaws, but he isn’t offensively inept, making him a piece that can contribute in those offensive draw situations. With the Canadiens getting a chance to dictate matchups in game three it’s a worthwhile chance for Claude Julien to take. The Canadiens entire game so far has been about taking advantage of Penguins mistakes. Getting another line that can generate or finish plays is a no-brainer.
With regards to Dale Weise, this isn’t meaning to single him out or disregard some of the things he’s done for Montreal in the past, but the simple fact is that it isn’t 2014 anymore. Milan Lucic is not threatening to kill him, and he isn’t the same player he was back then.
Montreal is very much alive in this series and they need to do whatever they can to leverage their small advantages. Tweaking the fourth line with one move is very much part of that.