Lapierre, Latendresse and Kostopoulos Take Flight
It was brought up a previous piece, that coach Guy Carbonneau was all aces when he decided to form a line of the Kostitsyn's and Robert Lang. Another move of Carbonneau's equally worth underlining is the uniting of the duo of Lapierre and Latendresse. The pair have played mostly with Tom Kostopoulos in recent games, but have also been seen with Steve Begin on occasion.
Since Lapierre registered a hat trick against Florida on December 29, the line has been going strong. In that nine game stretch the three have added 17 scoring points to their stats. Lapierre has 4 goals and 2 assists (with 2 shootout winners), Kostopoulos has 2 and 4, and Latendresse 3 and 2. As a group they have taken a whopping 68 shots on goal. Lapierre and Kostopoulos are both plus five over that sequence. All this from a supposed shut down line.
As Lapierre and Latendresse have long represented a pair of projects of sorts for the organization, what is currently being witnessed is the emergence of two self assured players who have learned they roles extremely well.
It could be said that, perhaps like the Kostitsyn's, there is a bit of brotherhood happening with Lapierre and Latendresse, who come from the same region, share a mother tongue, and may have an additional affinity due to how they have been brought up in the organization. On the ice, it looks like they have each others best interests at heart.
Clearly, the affinities they share in common, is something Carbonneau has played upon. This is hardly the first time they show an adeptness to each other on the ice, but perhaps because of the fact that they have matured as players, it is the first time that such has endured and grown.
Most often employed as a third line due to the aforementioned injuries, their trio brings an abundance of energy to each and every shifts.
What is engaging to see, is the obvious communication between the three when they have control of the puck. Whenever either of them throw a bodycheck, they are immediately backed up by another in pursuit. Lapierre in this, is relentless, Latendresse strong and hard to budge, and Kostopoulos simply menacing and just within the legal limits of nasty. They swarm together, cycling the opposition into a tizzy, usually emerging with a decent scoring chance.
Lapierre as center, seems to have been well tutored by Carbonneau, as he has begun to take on many of his coach's former characteristics. His percentage of faceoffs have improved, so much so, than when lined up against certain players, he has become quite dominant. His defensive play, and his vision of opposing schemes, shows his growing confidence and experience. Like Carbonneau himself in his heyday, the best testament to his success has been an increase in the scoring chances his work ethic has created for the line.
Latendresse is also showing healthy third year progression. Perhaps on a regular line for the first extended period of his career, Latendrese has found a comfort zone of sorts with Lapierre, a player who he doesn't have to consistently second guess.
The forte of Kostopoulos, energy and dilligeance along the boards, have spread an exhuberance across the whole line that has been infectuous. They have become the club's hardhat crew, and each game, regardless of opponant, they give opposing lines fits.
Best of all, is that they seem to be where they need each other to be at all times, and they play with that evident faith in each other. Carbonneau has been wise to unite them, and not tinker further with it.