Oct 22, 2013; Sunrise, FL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Bryan Bickell (29) celebrates his goal with center Marcus Kruger (16) and right wing Ben Smith (28) in the second period against the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
When the Chicago Blackhawks face the Minnesota Wild in Game #4 on Friday night, Coach Quenneville needs to reunited Ben Smith and Marcus Kruger again to balance the lines especially if Andrew Shaw is back in the lineup.
Andrew Shaw is listed as questionable for Game #4 which was his status for Game #2 which of course he didn’t participate in.
The Hawks are getting absolutely no production from the Bottom line since this playoff series began and it’s as simple as the fact that Quenneville separated Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith. Smith has been promoted to the 2nd line with Patrick Kane and has shown some promising production, but that production doesn’t counter how much the bottom line has fallen apart since they lost their playing partner in Ben Smith.
Smith seems to set up shop below the opponent’s goal line nightly and when the fourth line was producing Marcus Kruger and Brandon Bollig were right there with him maybe not putting a lot of pucks in the net but creating puck possession and being a nuisance to the other team.
Now everyone sees that Bollig was being carried by Kruger and Smith when he gets paired with Michal Handzus. Bollig has a simple game and it is fairly effective with 16 and 28 next to him. The fourth line (and third line) are a mess and the rolling two lines that Quenneville doing only creates issue (Look at the 4 3rd period goals given up last night).
The Hawks may never get back to rolling four lines like they did last season (Roll the press conference tape right after the Stanley Cup–Q mentions it) but they need to get more production from the bottom six and especially the bottom line that was effective for the majority of the season.
Play Regin for Smith at 2nd line center or hide Handzus with someone else, but reuniting the Smith-Kruger-Bollig line will at least give balance to the lineup.
The line blender is always running but Quenneville should stop, take a breath and reunited Smith and Kruger before Game #4!
What do you think? Is this something Quenneville should do or should he Keep Smith in the top 6?
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