Chicago Blackhawks: Using Four Defensemen

By Chris Schubert

The NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs are a very fun, yet strange part of the year. Playoff hockey is branded as some of the best hockey that the NHL produces year in and year out.

During the playoffs, everything that may have been used throughout the regular season is thrown out the window. The strategies change, every shift and matchup meaning more and more as the game goes on.

And with Coach Q, that means even more confusion than everyone may be used to. From sitting Antoine Vermette to the constant decision to give Michal Rozsival important playoff minutes, Coach Q keeps us all guessing.

This is a topic that I’ve touched on in the past, but it needs repeating here with game two tonight. Now no matter who it is on the 3rd defensive pairing, Q is known for shorting the bench in the late stages with both his forwards and defensemen.

That means Duncan Kieth, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya are the key four on the defensive side in the final period of play. This is not a relatively shocking statement, as this four have been relied on during past postseasons and the regular season to be the workhorses.

But that’s where the problems lie. These guys have high-usage over the past couple of seasons and at some point they will run out of gas. In order for the Blackhawks to not complete explode when that happens, a 3rd pairing that can grab some minutes here and there would really help. Kimmo Timonen is a useful option, although not playing all season due to blood clots and his aging legs could prove problems as these series wear on. Rozsival’s continued troubles in his own zone (see the 1st goal in Game One) have been really harmful to the Blackhawks, and at some point we all hope that Q sees this and makes the change.

Behind those guys, the Blackhawks have Kyle Cumiskey, Trevor van Riemsdyk and David Rundblad as three young options. While none are stars, and each have their fair share of faults, they do at least have the skills to be competent, useful guys on the third pairing.

With each game meaning so much here in April and moving forward, at some point you would think that the leash is going to be shortened on Rozsival and one more bad game could see him watching from the press-box.

Who am I kidding? We all know that coach Q is going to continue to trot Rozsival out their, hoping he figures it out at some point (although it’s more about his age/speed than his mental game) and if need be rely on those four mentioned above to role in the 3rd period night in and night out.

So here’s to hoping that those four don’t blow themselves out against the Predators.

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