A-Line A-mazing, by Randy Holtz, RMN, Friday, May 25, 2001.
Byline: Since falling behind the Leafs 3-2, Devil's top line has been a goal-scoring machine.
How about ma-ligned?
But now look at these guys. Nobody's stopping them. And there's little doubt the Colorado Avalanche's success or failure against the goal-happy trio will be a major factor in the outcome of the Stanley Cup Finals.
"When we work together," said Elias, like Sykora a young and gifted Czech, "we can be the best line in hockey. No question."
Ah, but a couple of weeks ago, there were plenty of questions about the so-called A-Line. Arnott, still slowed by a knee injury he suffered in the final week of the regular season, was struggling. And his Czech mates [ha] weren't faring much better.
But then, down three games to two and facing elimination by the underdog Toronto Maple Leafs in a second round series, Arnott called an A-Line-only meeting. He and his mates have been scorching nets ever since.
In the Devils' past eight games- the last three against Toronto and the five-game Eastern finals against Pittsburgh- Arnott, Sykora and Elias have combined for 16 goals and 19 assists.
Why the transformation?
"They are all playing more committed now," New Jersey coach Larry Robinson said. "I think that's the biggest thing. I think that when the playoffs first started, they were not all working together. They weren't committed to the team game.
"You can't play unless you're totally committed to where we're going and what we're doing, and all it takes is one person not doing his job."
Against Pittsburgh, the line congealed as never before. Sykora and Arnott both wound up with four goals. Elias had two goals and seven assists in the five games.
"We were struggling a bit early in the playoffs," said Arnott, who scored twice in the clinching Game 5 against the Penguins. "We weren't clicking as a line, and we just got together and things turned around for us."
It hasn't been an easy season for Arnott. After helping the Devils to the Stanley Cup last spring the Ontario native was a no-show for the first 19 games of the regular season, embroiled with the team in a contract dispute.
When he finally signed, it took him a while to get his bearings. Then he tweaked his left knee late in the season. Only in the past couple of weeks has he been his usual pesky self around opponent's nets.
Arnott, to his credit, didn't use the injury as an excuse.
"You've always got to play through injuries," he said. "You can't use that as an excuses"
The A-Line hasn't had to use any excuses lately. Every other shift, it seems, these guys are raising their sticks in the air after goals.
"They're a big part of our offense," said New Jersey defenseman and captain Scott Stevens. "Finally, they got it going. And there's no question we needed them to get where we are now."
Where the Devil's are now is four wins from a second consecutive Stanley Cup and third in seven years. New Jersey also won the cup in 1995, the year before the Avalanche brought it to Denver.
"As long as we keep playing overall as a team like we are, we're a tough team to beat," Arnott said. "But we have to have everybody going. We can't have anybody take a night off and it's shown in the last couple of games what we can do when we all play together."
The A-Line has shown that as well.
"It helps when we're scoring like this," Arnott said. "WE want to try to help the team out as much as possible, and if that's putting points up on the board, that's what we've got to do."
Photo Caption: Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora, two-thirds of the famed A-Line, celebrate Elias' goal last week against Pittsburgh. The A-Line has 16 goals in the past eight games.
Subset 1: Line Names of Yore
- The Brat Line: Tiger Williams, Jack Valiquette, Pat Boutette; Toronto Maple Leafs, 1970s; On the ice, they were abrasive guys who played like brats.
- The Fossil Line: Peter McNab, Mel Bridgman, Rich Preston; New Jersey Devils, 1985-86; The three, including current Avs TV analyst McNab, were getting a bit long in the tooth.
- The FTD Line: Ron Francis, Sylvain Turgeon, Kevin Dineen; Hartford Whalers, 1980s; Despite the acronym, they wouldn't send opponents flowers.
- The Gabby Line: Ray Getliffe, Murph Chamberlain, Phil Watson; Montreal Canadiens, 1943-44; They liked to talk.
- The KGB Line: Anders Kallur, Butch Goring, Bob Bourne; New York Islanders, 1980s; Dangerous whenever they spied an opening.
- Long Island Electric Co: Clark Gilles, Bryan Trottier, Billy Harris; New York Islanders, 1970s; First great Islanders line lit up arenas around the league.
- The Production Line: Ted Linday, Sid Abel, Gordie Howe; Detroit Red Wings, 1940s-50s; Named for offensive ability and the Motor City assembly lines.
Subset 2: Name That Line
The A-Line has been the unofficial nickname of the New Jersey Devis' high scoring No. 1 forward line of left wing Patrik Elias, center Jason Arnott and right wing Petr Sykora. The nickname - inspired by the name of a New York City subway line - was solidified this week when it won out in a name-the-line promotion by the website ESPN.com. The A-Line barely beat out the Bada Bing Line, a nickname inspired by the hit television show The Sopranos. After more than 1,600 fans sent in suggestions to the web site, the candidates were narrowed to 10. Here's how the voting of 6,219 visitors came out:
1) The A-Line, 16.2%
2) Bada Bing Line, 15.4%
3) Line of Fire, 13.6%
4) Three Diablos, 11%
5) Devils' Triangle, 10%
6) Tasmanian Devils, 9%
7) Demonic Plague, 8.8%
8) Lucifer's Lamplighters, 8.5%
9) Devils' Brigade, 4.6%
10) Elias Hockey Bureau, 2.4%