Three's The Magic Number
The saying goes two’s company three is a crowd. That sentiment couldn’t be further from the truth in regards to the Canucks third line. The current group of Manny Malhotra, Raffi Torres and Jannik Hansen was only assembled six games ago. Since then they have managed to accrue a combined total of nineteen points and eleven goals in six games.
That’s pretty impressive when you consider that originally Malhotra was believed to be over paid. Torres is a former first round pick who’s often been thought to have not reached his full potential. While Hansen has often been criticized for having no hands.
Malholtra and Torres were acquired to add toughness, grit size and strength to a team that had often struggled in that area. They are both proving that they can also bring an offensive element to their game.
Yesterday Torres was voted the NHL’s first star for scoring five goals and one assist in four games during the last seven days. He currently has seven goals two assists and nine points in thirteen match-ups.
Last season was somewhat of a disappointment for Torres who split the year between Columbus and Buffalo. He took to the ice in sixty games for the Blue Jackets where he scored nineteen goals, before being traded to the Sabres.
He failed to light the lamp in Buffalo, as he was goalless in fourteen outings and he has been haunted by inconsistency throughout his career. The Toronto native signed with Vancouver for $1 million, Mike Gillis hopes that he can prove a bargain and play like he did in 2005/06 when he had an NHL personal best of twenty-seven goals.
At 6' 2” 220lbs Malhotra knows how to look after himself, he’s not the sort of guy who is going to be pushed around on the ice. Apart from his large stature he is proving invaluable in the face off circle, he’s currently second in the league for face off percentage with 64%.
Like Torres, Manny has recently contributed offensively, in Saturdays game against Detroit he was even voted the second star, for scoring two goals one assist and three points, he currently has ten points on the season.
Perhaps the thirty-year-old center’s biggest asset to his team and the third line is one that can’t me measured on the ice. The Mississauga native acts as a mentor to Hansen and Torres. Hansen recently said “Manny has a lot of experience, he brings that to me and he is a calming influence”. Torres also referred to Malhotra as a kind of professor of the third line who is always teaching and talking to his wingers. There is a reason team captain Henrik Sedin picked the third string centre to be one of his assistants.
Hansen may be the youngest member of this trio but he brings speed skill and toughness, it’s also evident how playing with two veterans is having a positive effect on the Dane. He is averaging around just over fifteen minutes a game, which is a sign his coach has confidence in him.
Collectively Hanny, Manny and Raffi are doing it all, they are capable of playing in any situation conceivable and excel on the penalty kill power play and as a shut down squad against opposing first lines.
For the last two seasons the Canucks organization have been searching for the right ingredients to complement the third unit, if there is such thing as a prototypical third line Mike Gillis may have just found it.
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