The New York Islanders should give Michael Dal Colle playing time on the second line over Tom Kuhnhackl in the playoffs, despite Kuhnhackl’s playoff history.
It appears that the New York Islanders have found line combinations that work. On the top line, you have Anders Lee – Mathew Barzal – Jordan Eberle that have worked well together for the last couple of weeks.
We know how solid the Martin – Cizikas – Clutterbuck line is as the fourth line, and the third line is Beauvillier – Filppula – Komarov. The only line where there’s a question right now is the Islanders second line.
The two definites are Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey. It’s the other spot that comes into question, does it go to Michael Dal Colle or Tom Kuhhackl?
In practice, MDC and Kuhnhackl have been rotating so it appears that it could go either way for Game 1 on Wednesday. Based on how Barry Trotz has coached this year you could assume that he would favor the veteran.
Yes, Tom Kuhnhackl has two Stanley Cup rings, but how instrumental was he to Pittsburgh’s championships? In the second championship run, he didn’t play in a single game after the Washington series.
While Kuhnhackl is fine as your scratch pad/rotational forward you can’t justify putting him in your top six, he just doesn’t produce enough. In 36 games he has nine points (4 goals, 5 assists). While Michael Dal Colle only has seven points (3 goals, 4 assists) in 28 games he has the much higher scoring upside.
A stat I’d like to look at is scoring chances for percentage. Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson produce a 53.85 SCF percentage with Tom Kuhnhackl. While that’s fairly good, the combination with Michael Dal Colle is much better. That line produces a 63.41 SCF percentage.
While the Islanders are a much more defense orientated team and Tom Kuhnhackl can provide help on the penalty kill his skillset is rather redundant to other players the Islanders will trot out there. Leo Komarov, Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, and Valtteri Filppula can all kill penalties and play defensive games. Essentially serving the same role that Kuhnhackl would.
What the Isles lack in their matchup against the Penguins is scoring potential from there forwards. While I agree that the Isles defensive play can be the difference in this series it’s also tough to ignore the lack of scoring from the forwards.
If Michael Dal Colle can make the top-six better he has to play. If there’s an injury to your fourth line, yes you absolutely insert Tom Kuhnhackl in that role and let him do his thing but if he has to get 15 minutes a night playing with Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey that’s probably not what you want in a playoff series against Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessell.