Blackhawks News

Chicago Blackhawks: Is it Time to Split Up the 2nd Line?

By Tim Lively

Nov 28, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Artem Anisimov (15) celebrates a goal by defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) and an assist by Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) in the second period of the game against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no denying at this point in this post-Stanley Cup season, amidst all of the question marks surrounding our beloved Chicago Blackhawks, the one success story has been their second line: Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin, and Artem Anisimov. Perhaps success is a bit too mild an adjective here; this line has been an unprecedented breakout!

Let’s not forget, like the rest of the Blackhawks, uncertainty hung over these three forwards at the season’s beginning. Kane was embroiled in a rape scandal, Panarin was making his NHL debut, and it was any one’s guess as to how well Anisimov would transition to the ‘Hawks after his long tenure with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Well needless to say, all neigh-sayers, doubters, and outright haters have been silenced if not completely converted by the cumulative 76 points these three forwards have amassed thus far this season, and it’s not hyperbole to say Kane, Panarin, and Anisimov are the ones that have carried the ‘Hawks to a respectable fourth place as of this post in the tough Central Division.

That being said, while the second line for the ‘Hawks has become a known quantity, the same cannot be said for the rest of the Blackhawks’ offensive corp. The first line of Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa is struggling to find a permanent solution at left wing, newcomers Tanner Hero and Marko Dano are still trying to carve out their roles, and Teuvo Teravainen has all but been lost in the constant line shuffling. Overhanging all these woes however, is the glaring lack of consistent offensive production.

As expected, Coach Joel Quenneville has had his infamous line blender churning at full tilt for most of the season in an attempt to spark the offensive ranks. Understandably, he’s left his most productive line alone, but with the rest of the ‘Hawks’ forwards still struggling to find their stride, it may be time to ask the question: is it time to break-up the second line?

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It may sound insane to split up the one forward line that is consistently scoring for the Blackhawks, but we have to look at the big picture. We all know chemistry among line mates is crucial to win games in hockey, we also know that effective line chemistry can be hard to establish given how many different tangible and intangible factors are involved.

Thus, when successful chemistry is established amongst line mates, it’s important to exploit it every possible way. Given the sheer potency of the second line’s synergy, it may not hurt to spread it around…

We all know what type of talent the Hawks’ possess offensively. We also know sometimes they need a bit of a kick to get their groove going. Considering Q-Stache’s line blender isn’t doing the trick this time around, maybe spreading Kane, Panarin, and Anisimov throughout the lineup will provide just the right push.

In addition to their inherent talent, wherever they land in the line-up, Kane, Panarin, and Anisimov will be bringing the particular confidence and energy that the rest of Blackhawks’ forward lines are currently having trouble maintain. So here’s hoping these attributes of the second line will prove to be infectious. Not to mention, a brief stint skating with different line mates will help Kane, Panarin, and Anisimov work on the versatility of their game.

Of course, all the aforementioned is purely theory, but regardless, it’s fair to say that the second line’s demonstrated ability to deliver offensively has at the very least afforded the ‘Hawks some flexibility to find new ways to kick-start the rest of their offense. Bottom line is this scoring funk the Hawks’ are in needs to be ameliorated, and with line blender not doing the trick, it’s time for some unconventional thinking for this unconventional problem.