PHILADELPHIA – Vinny Lecavalier is a fourth line center in name only.
Yes, he has been moved back to the middle from the wing, and yes he is playing between Zac Rinaldo and Adam Hall, but don’t let that fool you to thinking that’s what he’s become.
Sure, putting him there seems to have lit a fire in the veteran forward. There’s no question that the last two games we’ve seen an inspired Lecavalier on the ice for the Flyers.
But, it’s not like he’s been relegated to that odd shift and nothing else.
He’s still on the power play – where he was when he scored Friday against Toronto. And he’s still bouncing up to take shift on the line with Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds – as he did for much of the third period against Boston, in place of Tye McGinn.
And while he was on that line in the third period, it should be noted he was in the middle with Brayden Schenn on the wing.
And then there’s the case where Craig Berube deftly replaced his second defenseman with Lecavalier for the extra attacker during the time out, which ultimately had him in the right position to score the tying goal that secured the all-important point in the standings.
Oh, and in overtime, he was out there taking shifts with Wayne Simmonds.
All in all he had 17:02 in ice time. He led the Flyers with nine shots on goal. Oh, and his first goal of the game was the 400th of his career. Ho Hum.
All kidding aside, Lecavalier is a much better player at 5-on-5 when he plays in the middle of the ice. Two games is a small sample, but watching him play the last two games – you see why the Flyers signed him to a five-year deal.
He has jump, he has vision, he has size to control the play – and he’s got a heck of a shot from that right circle.
“It’s just more of a moving game,” Lecavalier said about being back in the middle. “Obviously I played there my whole career. It just feels more natural. With Hall and Rinaldo, I think it went really good. We had great opportunities, great o-zone time, a lot of shots, and a lot of rebounds. We play very well together; a good support game.”
Lecavalier said he spoke to Berube about going back to center previously and is happy that he’s getting that chance again.
“We talked about it when I came back from my injury,” Lecavalier said. “I’ve always said it, I’ve always played middle. Being on the wing is not natural. But wherever I’m put, I’ll do my best to try to be good at it.”
And it’s not a conundrum for Berube. He can continue to start the game with Lecavalier getting a regular shift with Rinaldo and Hall and then in the third period, replace McGinn, or whoever is in the lineup, with Vinny and move Schenn out to the wing.
With the other two lines likely set for the long run, it’s not a lot of moving parts to make it work and it keeps Lecavalier in a comfortable position while only disrupting Schenn for a handful of shifts.
“He competed hard and got to the net and shot pucks,” Berube said. “I think he ended up with nine shots on net. That’s it, he’s got to shoot and he moved his feet. I thought he was competitive and played a good game.
“I think that line for whatever reason, with Hall and Zac, they’ve got chemistry and they look good together [as a] line.”
And if the Flyers are going to make noise in the playoffs – and they reduced their magic number to 10 points (either earned by the Flyers, or lost by Washington) – Lecavalier is going to be an integral part of whatever success they might have.
“He is a key piece,” Berube said. “I never thought he wasn’t. We need everybody, everybody is key. You’ve got to have everybody going.”
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers