Each year the top players (Ovechkin, Malkin, Crosby, etc.) will score their fair share of points regardless of who they skate with. Then there are the players who will score above their averages simply by forming chemistry with their linemates. The symphony displayed from three forwards who are all on the same page is truly amazing. From the Legion of Doom to Sedin-Sedin-Burrows to Perry-Getzlaf-Ryan and more, chemistry is absolutely huge in hockey. While it’s only two games into the season, Buffalo’s line of Thomas Vanek, Luke Adam, and Jason Pominville already has combined for 13 points, with all three players finding their names in the top 10 of NHL scoring.
Lindy Ruff would likely have Derek Roy pegged to be the center for this line, but am thrilled that Adam has earned his spot there instead. Roy is skating with Drew Stafford and Nathan Gerbe, forming a very strong second line. The other offensive line has Ennis, Boyes, and Leino skating together. Luke Adam has taken 21 faceoffs thus far, winning only 43% of his draws, which is something he’ll need to improve. Pominville has helped out though, stepping into the circle for nine thus far, winning an impressive six. For those curious as to how Ville Leino is doing at center, he’s won only 38.5% of his 26 draws.
Looking at the lines above tells me that Lindy Ruff is pleased with the balance outside of the top line and will most likely keep the Vanek-Adam-Pominville line together, so long as they continue to play as they have. Adam’s low faceoff percentage could be attributed to his age (21) as it is common for younger players to have an adjustment period in winning faceoffs. The fact that Pominville has been able to step in and win a few at key moments of the game should be another positive sign for the line to remain intact.
Often times a coach will change his power-play lines to ensure that he has his “top” players on the ice in critical moments. This is especially typical when determining if a coach wants to send a veteran (Roy) over a young player (Adam) on the ice. The good news in this situation is that Adam is still seeing power-play time with his linemates. The Vanek-Adam-Pominville line has accounted for 36.54% of Buffalo’s power-play shifts, most among Sabres’ power-play combinations.
Over Vanek’s career, he’s been a bit of a rollercoaster in terms of point scoring. He is on Dobber’s Windex Wonder list, but when he is on, he is on. Last season was Vanek’s highest scoring season (73 points) since his sophomore campaign (84 points) and of his current linemates, Vanek is the one with the most offensive potential. If this line can keep up their chemistry over a full season, Vanek should be able to register about 235 shots, and score 75-85 points. It’s still too early to tell if they can keep it up, but this is about where Vanek could max out.
Jason Pominville has only been able to break the 70-point barrier once in his career (five years ago), but he scored an impressive 80 points that year. Pominville and Vanek have been paired together on and off for the past few years, mainly with Roy, and the offense just hasn’t been what everyone had hoped for. Pominville is a setup man first, and Roy is also a setup man. Somebody needed to bring a little sandpaper to this line.
Enter the youngest forward on the Buffalo Sabres, Luke Adam. Adam is a 6’2”, 203 lb. center with a very bright future. Adam won the AHL Rookie of the Year award last year, as well as leading rookies in scoring (62 points in 57 games), and skating in the AHL All-Star game. His goals aren’t always pretty, but he does what it takes to get the puck in the net. Adam is exactly the type of player that Pominville and Vanek needed to take their production to the next level.
We’re only a couple games into the season, but the Vanek-Adam-Pominville line has already turned a few heads. If they can keep their production up for a full season, we should see a very strong year out of Thomas Vanek, followed by a strong year from Pominville, and an impressive, potentially Calder-nominee performance from Luke Adam.