The Canucks, Devils and Blackhawks -- all clubs currently in the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- are just three examples of how far a team can get with a dominant forward line. Nearly every one of the 30 NHL clubs has some sort of go-to trio, but not all are created equal.
Chemistry is a funny thing. It can develop over an entire preseason training camp, in an off-day practice, or even on the fly in the middle of a game. Sometimes players are asked to explain it, but there are times when they find no answers and just chalk it up to the luck of the moment.
Forward lines do not stick together as much as in the days when trios were given monikers, such as the French Connection, the Production line, the Kid line, the Punch line, the Pony line, and the Legion of Doom. In today's NHL, lines are united and broken up with greater frequency due to injuries, to adapt to game situations, and to avoid checking lines.
Then there are the dominant lines, a uniting of three players so sublime that they excel in most situations.
The Canucks have the most unique forward line in Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Alexandre Burrows. Unique because the Sedin twins -- Daniel the center and Henrik the left wing -- have been playing together nearly their entire lives and have an uncanny chemistry that only brothers who shared the same womb can comprehend. Burrows is their Quebec-born right wing, crease crasher and, for this season, Vancouver's leading goal scorer with 35.
"I don't think he does anything special -- he's a good hockey player," Henrik told NHL.com of Burrows. "He's got good hockey sense. He makes the easy play all the time. He's easy to read. He knows where we want to have the puck and we know where he's going to be. That's why it works so good I think."
"Those guys are spectacular players," Burrows said. "You saw again this year. With Hank winning the Art Ross, and Danny, if he would not have gotten injured, probably would be right behind them."
Henrik led the NHL with 112 points in 82 games, Daniel had 85 points in 63 games, and Burrows had 67 points in 82 games. Henrik and Daniel recorded a point on the same goal 71 times. Henrik and Burrows joined forces on the same goal 41 times, and Daniel and Burrows recorded points on the same goal 34 times.
"It's like some kind of magic with those two guys," Burrows said. "They know where they're going to be, especially in the offensive zone. If it's on the forehand or the backhand, they're able to make those saucer passes, and it makes them really fun to watch."
The top trio in New Jersey -- Travis Zajac centering Zach Parise on the left and Jamie Langenbrunner on the right -- have been bestowed with the nickname ZZ Pops on local broadcasts. Langenbrunner, the veteran of the line and the Devils' captain, is pops, a nod to his seniority. Though time will tell if the name catches on, this line definitely has caught the attention of goaltenders League wide.
Parise scored 82 points in 81 games, Zajac scored 67 points in 82 games, Langenbrunner scored 61 points in 81 games to finish 1-2-3 in Devils scoring. Not only are they productive, but the trio is also known as a high-energy forechecking unit.
Parise, Zajac and Langenbrunner weren't always paired together, but the line worked more often than not. Devils coach Jacques Lemaire frequently tinkers with line combinations. "As a coach, you try to change things that are not working to make them work," Lemaire said. "You have to find ideas to get everyone to work. Work means: have success, work together. As soon as there's a line that doesn't have success… you don't want to play with the one that's had success, but you've got to try to find something that won't interfere with the success of the other lines. Like changing one piece, maybe it'll be fine if you change only one piece. Sometimes you have to change two."
"It's like some kind of magic with those two guys. They know where they're going to be, especially in the offensive zone. If it's on the forehand or the backhand, they're able to make those saucer passes, and it makes them really fun to watch." -- Alex Burrows on Daniel and Henrik Sedin
Kane led the Blackhawks with 88 points in 82 games, Toews had 68 points in 76 games, and Sharp scored 66 points in 82 games. Kane and Toews recorded points on the same goal 36 times.
"I love watching those guys play even when I'm not on their line and when you're on their line, you're a little bit awestruck sometimes," said teammate Troy Brouwer, who has also been used on a line with Kane and Toews. "Tazer was trying to make a move to the middle, and I caught myself watching. They're pretty easy to play with."
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