That's two games in a row now where the team has been pretty bad defensively, by both the defence and the forwards. Forward changes may be forced by injuries, but would you make any changes on the blue line?
Colin: I've been pretty vocal all season about overhauling the defensive pairings, although odds of Boucher sticking with Methot-Karlsson and Phaneuf-Ceci in the top four are very high. That leaves us with the bottom pairing, and I think it's time to bring back Chris Wideman in place for Ben Harpur. Claesson-Wideman had a 54.34% CF% in the regular season, far above the rest of the team. Borowiecki is another option, although I'm not convinced the Sens are in need of some extra physical presence this series (NYR leads in hits 111-102).
Ross: I'm with Colin that Harpur should be replaced with Wideman. I was pleasantly surprised by Harpur when he was called up, since he played far better than he did a year ago. The thing is he's still young, and maybe he's feeling the effects of playing too many NHL playoff games in a row, maybe teams have spotted his weaknesses and are exploiting them, but whatever the reason, he hasn't been as good lately. There's a reason the Sens kept Wideman and let PW walk. There's a reason he played 76 games this season. That reason is that he's better than Ben Harpur currently.
The other problem I think is that Boucher built his system to shelter a weaker left D. The left guy jumps way up in the play when the opponent is breaking out, forcing Karlsson/Ceci/Wideman to think a little more. The problem is that when you have Harpur or Claesson playing their off-side, that plan breaks down. For this reason, I think having a comfortable right-shooting D on the third pairing is where the team should go back to.
Ian: I agree with Ross and Colin above, I do think that Wideman needs to come back in. I just hope that Wideman can shake off the game that sent him to the press box and return to his old self. But I think that means that Freddy Claesson will be the one coming out in exchange for Wideman. Similar to what Ross mentioned, the Sens system has usually gone with one guy in each pairing whose role it is to hang back on defence, allowing their partner to get more aggressive with either a pinch or stepping up in the neutral zone. Utilizing that system requires a lot of trust, but I really don't think that a pairing of Wideman-Claesson has gained enough trust with Boucher for him to roll them out there confidently. Call me old-fashioned, but I think that each pairing requires a defenceman who has the potential of being a physical threat - not just for hitting, but also in terms of battling for position in front of the net or pinning their check against the wall.
Ross: Ian - are you saying Harpur-Wideman has that trust? Or are you expecting Boro back?
Ian: Yep, I just think that in his short stint Harpur has earned Boucher's trust. With that said, I'd fully expect the Sens to mix up the bottom pairing, so whoever ends up in the bottom pair will likely be subject to the same jumbling we've seen in previous games.
Ary: I think it's strange that Wideman hasn't been inserted earlier, but I guess like many coaches, Boucher didn't want to tinker with a winning lineup. Wideman's trended down in terms of expected goals (xGF) as the season as gone on -- expected for a smaller defenceman playing in just his second full NHL season -- but has been more than serviceable and can pass or move the puck quickly out of the offensive zone. In addition, Wideman also helps take the burden off of Karlsson on PP2 and lessens the reliance on Cody Ceci, who's surprisingly somewhat of an offensive black hole despite strong junior numbers.
As for the specific pairings, I'd be 100% fine with Methot - Karlsson, Phaneuf - Ceci, and Claesson - Wideman. As stated earlier, Claesson - Wideman performed well in limited minutes earlier in the year, and I think Claesson's greater pro and NHL experience tilts the cards in his favour for staying in. Don't get me wrong, Harpur has performed admirably and there's no way I would've predicted him looking this solid earlier in the year, but Claesson hasn't looked overwhelmed against the Rangers while Harpur has.
Although I think Phaneuf - Karlsson and Methot - Ceci is worth a shot, I don't think Boucher will experiment considering that he didn't for most of the season.
Trevor: I think Boucher's overthinking it a bit with Wideman. He was their second best defenseman in the regular season, and he's capable of bouncing back from a few bad games. Plus, the Rangers have some of the fastest forwards in the league, so someone like Ben Harpur stands out in a bad way compared to Wideman.
To me, the answer should be pretty simple: pair Wideman with Claesson, as others have mentioned that they had success in their brief time together this year. Harpur has been better than I thought he'd be, but Wideman is still the better defenseman overall. It's time to get him back in the lineup.
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