In the NHL it is very important to find line combinations that can produce scoring on a nightly basis. Every successful team has lines that can be counted on for consistent production. Tinkering with combinations has been the norm for the Phoenix Coyotes and Head Coach Wayne Gretzky while searching for the right recipes on the front line.
Enter the newly formed “VHS LINE” of Radim Vrbata
, Martin Hanzal
, and Fredrik Sjostrom, who have meshed as a unit to give the Phoenix Coyotes a new weapon on offense. While we live in a digital age where the “VHS” is a thing of the past after giving way to DVD players and Tivo, this line will not be outdated any time soon.
You would have to call the Elias Sports Bureau to find a line combination that has tallied the kind of numbers this trio did against Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils on Saturday. They combined for 10 points versus a sound defensive team, and arguably the greatest goaltender of all time, in leading the Coyotes to a 4-1 victory in Newark. Hanzal had a career day with a goal and three assists, his first 4 point game as a pro. Sjostrom tallied twice and chipped in an assist on Vrbata’s 3rd period goal. Vrbata also contributed two assists to complete the lines 10 point day.
That effort was followed by another big performance on Broadway as the Coyotes hammered the Rangers 5-1. Both Vrbata and Sjostrom scored key goals in a second period onslaught that saw Phoenix turn a 1-0 first period lead into a five goal advantage after two periods.
“They work well together and they have all worked so hard at practice. I think Vrbata has been a big influence on Hanzal,” said Head Coach Wayne Gretzky. “He’s a true professional, and for Martin to have him as an influence in his hockey career is nothing but a positive. And Freddy has been one of our best players over the last five or six games.”
“V”-Radim Vrbata has arguably been the Coyotes MVP so far this season. He has been the most consistent offensive performer on a team that has struggled to find the net. His 13 goals lead a team that has no other player in double digits. With 24 points he is tied with Captain Shane Doan
for the team lead. Maybe the most unexpected stat on Vrbata’s sheet is the +7 he has registered in the plus/minus category which leads all Coyotes’ forwards. The native of the Czech Republic has never been known as a defensive forward, but since joining Phoenix this past offseason in a trade with Chicago he has shown that he is a tremendous all around player.
“H”-Martin Hanzal entered his first season in the NHL with high expectations as the Coyotes #1 draft pick (17th Overall) in the 2005 entry draft. The young Czech center has been as advertised if not better. Currently, he is tied for 4th in rookie scoring with 18 points. With each game you can see his confidence grow as he gets stronger and stronger on the puck. The 20 year old rookie has proved to Coach Gretzky that he can do it all in earning minutes on the power play and penalty killing units.
“S”-Fredrik Sjostrom is another former #1 draft pick for the Coyotes coming in 2001 with the 11th overall pick. This year you can call Sjostrom “The Road Warrior” because of his outstanding play in road games. After scoring two in New Jersey and one at the Garden, the Swedish winger has eight goals on the season, all of which have come on the road. Of his thirteen points on the season, only one has come at home when he registered an assist against the Oilers on October 18th. The Coyotes are 4-1 when Freddie finds the net which has helped them to an impressive 10-8 road record.
Next up for the “VHS Line” are the Philadelphia Flyers and San Jose Sharks as they complete a six game road trip that is already been a major success at 3-1. In the first four games of the trip this trio has combined for 21 points (7 goals, 14 assists), so look for more production for this emerging group of young forwards. If you can’t catch the game live, be sure to plug a VHS tape in your VCR!