The Olympics have seen some stellar line combinations, and the American trio of Phil Kessel, Joe Pavelski, and James van Riemsdyk ranks among the best.
If not the best.
The trio has a combined 15 points in three games and Kessel leads the Olympic scoring race with seven points — but it’s the “new” guy on the line, Pavelski, that’s perhaps the most crucial element. Kessel and van Riemsdyk have a natural chemistry given they’re linemates in Toronto, so the San Jose center deserves credit for adapting to their style of play and taking a page from the book of Tyler Bozak — Kessel and JVR’s usual center with the Leafs.
“It’s nice coming in, knowing that him and JVR play together, and knowing what type of player Bozak is,” Pavelski said following Sunday’s 5-1 win over Slovenia. “It’s easy for me to come in and fill that role, read off them.”
So, what makes this trio so special? Versatility and sniping ability, for the most part.
Kessel is one of the best goal scorers in the game and remarkably quick, while van Riemdsyk is a big-bodied net presence that’s netted a career-high 24 goals already this season. Pavelski’s no slouch either when it comes to putting pucks in the net — he sits tied for fourth in the NHL in goals, with 29 — but in Sochi, he’s been more of a playmaker and racked up a team-high four assists (a lead he shares with van Riemdsyk.)
“Phil’s got that speed, and JVR you know he likes to be around the net,” Pavelski explained. “[I’m] filling in where I can, and we’ve had some success.”
While the Americans have received good contribution from a number of forwards, it’s clear the Kessel-Pavelski-van Riemdsyk line is driving the bus offensively. Head coach Dan Bylsma has juggled other combinations throughout the tournament but kept that red-hot trio intact throughout, a sign that it’ll be heavily counted upon as the tournament moves to the playoff stage.