I Watched This Game: Canucks at Pittsburgh Penguins, October 19, 2013

The Canucks have looked quite good at times this season. The only problem is those times have generally been at the same time they’ve been facing some of their weakest competition. Their wins have come against weaker teams — the Oilers, Flames, Devils, Flyers, and Sabres — while they’ve lost twice to the powerhouse Sharks and couldn’t stick with the Canadiens after an embarrassing own goal.

The Canucks have faced legitimate questions about whether they can keep up with the stronger teams in the league, but this game against the Penguins, despite the end result, proved that they can. This was, by far, the most entertaining game of the season, even though it was obscenely early in the morning for a Saturday. Yes, 10 am is early for me. I’m a night owl.

Thankfully, the Canucks and Penguins kept me awake and alert when I watched this game.

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Can Jordan Schroeder, Zack Kassian, and David Booth give the Canucks an effective third line?

For all the talk of splitting the Sedins between the Canucks’ top two lines over the past week, the discussion bypasses what has been one of the Canucks’ legitimate issues this season: the third line. The Canucks have a bevy of forwards to parcel out in the top-six, but huge question marks in the bottom six, starting at third-line centre.

Since John Tortorella seems content to leave the fourth line on the bench for the vast majority of the game, the third line is the real issue, with none of the Canucks’ centres taking the reins during the pre-season. The third line through the first five games of the season has been a mish-mash of Brad Richardson, Jannik Hansen, David Booth, Dale Weise, Chris Higgins, and Mike Santorelli, with some of those rotating into the top-six. The various combinations haven’t experienced much success and haven’t stayed together with any consistency.

Over the past two games, however, an intriguing combination has been put together that may solve the problem. With the return of Zack Kassian and Jordan Schroeder to the lineup, the two youngsters have been matched with David Booth to form a third line with the potential to have some staying power.

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