May 26, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Chicago Blackhawks centerAndrew Shaw
(65) during game four of the Western Conference Final of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center. The Kings defeated the Blackhawks 5-2 to take a 3-1 series lead. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The Blackhawks signed Brad Richards this offseason to one year contract. Richards was a productive player with the New York Rangers last season with Richards producing 20 goals and 31 assists with the Rangers. Richards is creative with the puck and should be a good fit with the Blackhawks and while Richards also plays some solid defense, the Blackhawks are hoping that Richards will be able to fill the Black hole that is the second line center position.
Second Line center has been a Black hole during this time of prosperity with the Blackhawks. The Blackhawks have tried Michal Handzus, Dave Bolland, Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane, Ben Smith, Marcus Kruger, and many others at the second line center position. One player who had some success at the position is Andrew Shaw.
When the Blackhawks fell down to the LA Kings three games to one in the Western Conference Final, Coach Joel Quenneville switched up the lines. Coach Quenneville puts Andrew Shaw in as the second line center between Kane and Brandon Saad. In Game 5 of the Western Conference Final, the line of Kane, Shaw, and Saad produced at least one point in all five goals. Shaw has two assists and was a +3. Kane had four assists and was a +5 and Saad had one goal and two assists in Game 5. In Game 6 Saad had one goal and one assist, Shaw had one assist, and Kane had two goals in one assist. In Game 7, Kane had two assists, Shaw had 1 assist, and Saad had one goal and one assist.
Shaw, Kane, and Saad were the best line the Blackhawks had last postseason in the LA Kings series, and Shaw seemed to ignite Kane and Saad at the right time.
Despite everything that Richards brings to the Blackhawks; Shaw should be the second line center. Everyone assumes that Richards can keep up with Kane and Saad. Everyone assumes Richards is an upgrade over Handzus, which I believe he is. Can Richards ignite Kane and Saad, that is unclear. Is Richards upgrade over Shaw, I do not believe so.
What do you think? Was Shaw just a short-term one series answer or can he be the long-term answer this season for the Blackhawks, or will Brad Richards be able to come in and take the 2nd line center spot and crank up the Blackhawks offense? Can’t wait for training camp to finally arrive!
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