Why Vincent Lecavalier's Move to 4th Line Was Good for the Philadelphia Flyers

Brad KurtzbergContributor IMarch 31, 2014

A demotion to the fourth line has been just what the doctor ordered for Vincent Lecavalier.
A demotion to the fourth line has been just what the doctor ordered for Vincent Lecavalier.Associated Press

When is a demotion to the fourth line a step forward for all concerned? It certainly was for Philadelphia Flyers veteran forward Vincent Lecavalier.

Head coach Craig Berube moved Lecavalier to the fourth line prior to the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs last Friday. The results have been nothing short of spectacular for Lecavalier. In two games playing with Adam Hall and Zac Rinaldo, Lecavalier has three goals on 12 shots and a plus-two plus/minus rating.

The biggest reason for the move's success? It meant that Lecavalier returned to his natural position at center rather than playing left wing like he has most of the season.

"It felt great. It's just more of a moving game," Lecavalier told Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer after Sunday's game against the Boston Bruins. "Obviously I've played there my whole career. It just feels more natural."

Despite the fact that Lecavalier has spent nearly all of his career as a top-six forward and Hall and Rinaldo are role players, there has been solid chemistry between the new linemates.

"I think we were awesome as a line," Lecavalier told Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News. "Wherever I'm going to be put, I'm going to do my best, but with Hall and Rinaldo I think the chemistry was definitely there. We were finding each other. We were making some good plays at the net. I love playing with them, for sure."

Berube agreed, although he almost seemed surprised. "For whatever reason, they've got chemistry," he admitted to Carchidi.

It wasn't surprising that Hall was excited to play with Lecavalier. The two were teammates with the Tampa Bay Lightning and did occasionally play on the same line. "He's a tremendous player, he's got tremendous abilities," Hall told NHL.com's Adam Kimelman. "He has that ability to create plays, create offense. He's got an amazing shot. ... Adds that extra little bit of ability [to the line]. I'm excited to play with him obviously."

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 30: Vincent Lecavalier #40 of the Philadelphia Flyers poses with his 400th NHL goal puck after his game against the Boston Bruins on March 30, 2014 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Bruins went on to def
Len Redkoles/Getty Images

Against a Boston club that has a very solid defense, Lecavalier had nine shots on goal, his best single-game performance in more than three years. His first goal was the 400th of his NHL career, making him the 90th player in NHL history to reach that milestone.

It seems odd that a career goal scorer like Lecavalier is comfortable playing with a pair of players who have 10 points total between them for the season, but so far, the combination has proved to be effective.

The move has barely altered Lecavalier's ice time, mostly because he is still playing on the Flyers' power-play unit. In fact, the veteran is averaging 2:32 per game while Philadelphia has the extra attacker. This allows him to see some ice time with more "creative" offensive players as well.

Lecavalier's presence on the fourth line creates problems for opposing defenses.
Lecavalier's presence on the fourth line creates problems for opposing defenses.Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

When he is out with the fourth line, Lecavalier creates matchup problems for opposing coaches because they cannot let down defensively regardless of which unit Berube sends onto the ice for Philadelphia.

A comfortable and productive Lecavalier would be a big asset for the Flyers in the playoffs.

"He is a key piece [of the team]," Berube told Carchidi. "I never thought he wasn't."