GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 23: Brad Stuart #23 of the Detroit Red Wings skates with the puck past Mathieu Schneider #23 of the Phoenix Coyotes in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Jobing.com Arena on April 23, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. The Red Wings defeated the Coyotes 4-1 to take a 3-2 series lead. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Remarkably, for a team not given much chance of defeating the Red Wings in their first round matchup, the Coyotes have forced a seventh game in their series. It seems that one factor that may be influencing their good fortune so far is our old friend, the seventh dressed defenseman.
In their case, Mathieu Schneider just returned from injury and head coach Dave Tippett used seven defensemen to limit his minutes. However, the way Tippett limited his minutes is the interesting part. Tippett employed Schneider, essentially, only on the power play. It also shored up their defense a bit, allowing only 1 important goal (the second Detroit goal was in garbage time toward the end of the game). He may be 40 years old and not quick enough to handle a regular defensive shift, but Schneider can still run a power play.
We've had numerous complaints that Sergei Gonchar must be hurt, or maybe he's finally wearing down, or perhaps the end of the road is near for him because he seems to have lost whatever defensive ability he once had. Unfortunately, even though we perceive that something is wrong, we still understand that he's too important to the success of the team's power play to simply bench him and hope for the best.
So, apropos of nothing, here's some unsolicited advice for Mr. Bylsma: copy the likely Adams Trophy winner shamelessly.
Considering we know that Bylsma regularly inserts Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin into the fourth line anyway, the only problems I can see with this is what to do in the absence of Kennedy and Leopold. Ruslan Fedotenko is still available, and so I'd use him in the absence of Kennedy. For Leopold, it's not the same type of player, but Ben Lovejoy is on the roster and certainly did not look out of place in his short time in the NHL earlier this season.
Either way, the point is to use Gonchar sparingly at even strength, almost never on the penalty kill, and constantly, if possible, on the power play. You're shedding a forward in the process, but that forward isn't going to be terribly valuable anyway other than as someone who will eat a few minutes for you. I suspect that this would be a more efficient lineup for the power play while also being a stronger defensive unit to avoid more unnecessary nonsense happening in front of Marc-Andre Fleury.
What are your thoughts?