At first glance, the Komets' forward line of Artem Podshendyalov, Leo Thomas and Sean O'Connor doesn't seem diversified enough that it would be effective. All three are similar players -- fast players -- and they don't have an overwhelming amount of size or physicality.
But you know what they say -- "speed kills" -- and that line was lethal in the first-round three-game sweep of the Bloomington PrairieThunder.
"I love watching them," defenseman Matt Krug said.
The speed line accounted for three goals and eight assists as the Komets outscored the PrairieThunder 14-6, earning a second-round matchup with the CHL's defending champion, Rapid City, that starts Friday in South Dakota.
They weren't put together by coach Al Sims until there were two games remaining in the regular season. Sims normally likes putting together a playmaker, a shooter and a grit player, and this didn't quite fit the mold because they are all similarly unselfish speedsters.
"We had good chemistry right off the bat," Thomas said.
Thomas had 18 goals and 27 points in 50 regular-season games. O'Connor had 14 goals and 38 points in 57 games. They have been skating primarily together for three seasons.
Podshendyalov, a rookie, had eight goals and 18 points in 32 games. In the 6-3 series-clinching victory over Bloomington, his breakaway goal -- after a deft pass from O'Connor -- was the winner. And Podshendyalov's blistering cross-ice pass set up Frankie DeAngelis to put the game out of reach.
"Artem and I are really similar players," O'Connor said. "He holds the puck a little more than I do. But I think it works really well. For me, I can feel what he's going to do before he does it and I think he feels the same about me. It's lucky for us that we're playing together and that we're similar style of players because we feed off each other really well.
"And Leo, I've been playing with him for three years and I'm so comfortable with him that I can't imagine playing with another centerman. With Leo's speed and the way he works down low -- he gets big hits and wins so many battles -- it's only a matter of time before we're going to start (really) clicking."
After winning three straight championships in the IHL, the Komets struggled to adjust to the increased speed in the CHL, losing 16 of their first 21 games before finishing 31-27-8 and with the sixth seed in the Turner Conference.
But the speed of Podshendyalov, Thomas and O'Connor is probably as good as any line in the league. So much so, that it can be a problem.
"I think we've got a lot of speed and (we need) to play more of a time game," O'Connor said. "Sometimes, we can get ahead of each other because we're all so fast. Most of our chances have been off the rush instead of working on a team in the zone. We've just got to try to keep it simple ... and pass it to the guy who's moving and that's all we're really focusing on doing. We've got to try and get it out (of our zone) and hopefully score."
The Rush's first priority will likely be shutting down the Komets' top line of Tab Lardner, Colin Chaulk and Derek Patrosso -- it had only one goal and three assists in the first round -- but the speed line gives the Komets more depth.
"They can buckle down on Chaulk's line and do what they want to do, but as long as we get our job done, we'll be alright," Thomas said.
And Krug warned: Don't assume just because they are all fast that they don't have different attributes when they need them.
"Every guy does bring something different," he said. "OC is a playmaker. Artie can skate like the wind. And Leo can shoot the puck. It's exciting to watch them."