Since the mid 90’s, no nickname for a line on the New Jersey Devils roster has one upped “The Crash Line.” Composed of Randy McKay, Bobby Holik, and Mike Peluso, the trio dished big hits and delivered plenty of hurt to their opponents en route to their first Stanley Cup. Since then, no line has agitated more opponents then the Bernier, Carter, & Gionta line late in the 2011-12 season and throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
I was hoping for some creative name to pop up for this pesky 4th line who just simply wore out opponents and created endless headaches, but nothing worthwhile stuck. They even had glimpses of success in the final round last season before being ousted in Game 6 by LA.
With that line skating together again for the “2012”-13 season, maybe Devils fans will get crafty enough to honor those three boys with a nickname. That is, if they can deliver the same results to hold true to the reputation they established.
So with hockey fans all over the world trying to satisfy a craving for live hockey, the World Junior Championships from Ufa, Russia did just that. Not only did the tournament satisfy cravings, it gave Americans a full stomach, Canadians got belly aches, and Devils fans got an opportunity to watch their future winger, Blake Pietila play an important role and be a part of Team USA’s “Grind Line.”
Composed of Cole Bardreau, Ryan Hartman, and our own, Blake Pietilla, they were able to provide Team USA with some physical presence and Blake was able to help shut opponents down during penalty kills as USA was one of the most penalized teams in the tournament.
With USA not having rosters set until the tournament basically began and Stefan Matteau getting the boot from Phil Housley, Pietila got an opportunity to step in and go without a penalty in the seven games the team played throughout the tournament and through the gold medal game versus Sweden. He never won player of the game, he didn’t score any goals, but he was effective in the role Housley and the coaching staff needed him to play.
The Devils have had issues with depth for quite some time and finally got the added scoring they need throughout the 2011-12 season and looks like they’ll have it going forward with players like Pietila in their system. Not only is he Michigan Tech’s top scorer, he can play a well rounded, disciplined game that any franchise can value. What’s the reward? He’s now part of a team with playoff pedigree and a gold medal to hang up in his college dorm.
In a tournament where every prediction favored Canada to win it all, Team USA not only got their revenge by blowing out Canada in a 5-1 medal round win, but also took down defending champs Sweden, in a great final on January 5, 2013 with a final of 3 – 1.