Chicago Blackhawks: Trying To Make Sense Of The Lines

By Gail Kauchak
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Jun 10, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center

Jonathan Toews

(19) celebrates with teammates

Patrick Sharp

(10) ,

Marian Hossa

(81) and

Niklas Hjalmarsson

(4) after scoring a goal against the Tampa Bay Lightningin the second period in game four of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

It’s official.  The Chicago Blackhawks and the Tampa Bay Lightning are tied 2-2 in this Stanley Cup Final.  Is anyone really surprised?  These are 2 incredibly good hockey clubs that have fought tooth and nail to get here.  Nobody wants to go home without that big shiny silver chalice.  I’m sure no one will be surprised if this battle goes to 7 games.

This series has been so crazy and so back and forth it’s really hard to get a pulse on what is going on.  Who has the edge?  What does each team need to do to win the next game?  And now Coach Q has to put a monkey wrench in things and pulled out the lineblender in Game 4.  Let’s take a closer look, and see if we can make some sense of it all.

The 3 players that comprised the top line for most of the playoffs have done pretty well in this series.  Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, and Brandon Saad are all expected to come through, and for the most part they have done just that.

Let’s start with Marian Hossa.  Good God, this man is something!  Whenever the puck is in his general vicinity, he comes up with it.  I don’t know how he does it.  His positioning is phenomenal, and he can out-muscle and outmaneuver just about anyone.  At this point in his career, it’s become his job to protect the puck and then feed it to a teammate for the score.  This is why Hossa is leading the team in points so far in this series, not with goals, but with 4 assists.

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Brandon Saad is the power forward that uses his speed and strength to get in the right position to score goals.  We can check this off our list; Saad has 2 goals so far against Tampa Bay.

Jonathan Toews has been winning faceoffs like a madman (45%, 69%, 72%, 57% in these 4 games).  He is playing his strong 2-way game and has earned himself a goal and an assist.

Moving on, Patrick Kane has not been able to break out like his above mentioned teammates.  He currently only has 1 assist and 0 goals in the entire series.  In Game 2, he had 0 shots on goal.  This has got to be even more frustrating for Kaner than it is for any of the fans.  His job is to score goals, and that is just not happening.

Well, the first 2 games Kane was on the top line with Toews and Saad, where the Lightning was able to fully concentrate on shutting them down.  In Game 3, Kane played mostly on a line with Bryan Bickell, who has not been playing well at all and was actually scratched for Games 1, 2, and 4.  In Game 4, Kane played much of the time with Andrew Shaw.

As you can see, he hasn’t had much consistency, or been given the optimal linemates to help him find time and space to create offense.  His lone assist came when he was on the ice with Brandon Saad (the goal scorer) and Brad Richards.   Kane is just too talented for this to continue.  I think Coach Q will find a good line combination for him going forward, and Kane’s magic will break through.

Patrick Sharp played on the first line instead of Brandon Saad for Game 4.  He had an assist on Toews’ goal, and generated 2 shots on goal.  This is the same top line that was so good last year.   It seems like an effective move to me, and then it frees up Saad to play on the second line with Kaner.

But for the love of all things holy, why was Andrew Shaw playing center on the second line?!  Ok, he does have 3 points in the series (1G, 2A), but he’s so good at playing wing and being gritty on the fourth line.  He’s just such a natural in that role.  Why try to fix what’s not broken?

Brad Richards moved back up to second line center towards the end of the game, and that made more sense.  It was the combo of Saad/Richards/Kane that scored the game winning goal (as mentioned above).