The Brandon Mashinter experiment failed. Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville thought that having a more physical presence in the lineup for the first game of the Stanley Cup playoffs against the St. Louis Blues would open up more ice for the Hawks finesse players.
That strategy proved unsuccessful as the Blues put up 41 hits and ended up with a 1-0 overtime victory in Wednesday’s series opener. Mashinter looked so poor when he was on the ice, that Quenneville couldn’t keep the forward out long enough to even remotely make a difference. He had a team-low 7:27 of ice-time and instead of limiting St. Louis’ physicality, he slowed down the Hawks third line, making the game more difficult for his linemates Teuvo Teravainen and Tomas Fleischmann. Going forward, it will be important for the Hawks to have production from all four offensive lines and in order for the third line to be able to make a difference, a change in personnel is needed.
Many fans were shocked to see Mashinter in the lineup over Dale Weise or Richard Panik for Wednesdays game. In Game 2 on Friday, Coach Q will very likely use one of those two players to replace Mashinter and attempt to spark the Chicago Blackhawks offense. The question is, which one will he use?
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Panik was acquired in a January trade from the Toronto Maple Leafs for Jeremy Morin. The winger was stuck in the minors with his old club putting up 25 points in 33 games with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies and has appeared in 30 contests with the Blackhawks scoring 6 goals and assisting on two more for 8 total points.
Weise was a trade deadline acquisition coming over from the Montreal Canadiens, along with Fleischmann, in exchange for Phillip Danault and a 2018 draft pick. The 27-year-old forward had 26 points in 56 games for Montreal, but has struggled during his time in Chicago, only providing an assist in 15 games.
It is hard to tell who Quenneville may choose to play on the third line on Friday. Weise has more playoff experience skating in 34 total postseason games with the Canucks and Canadiens, scoring 10 points. Panik has only played two total playoff games with the Tampa Bay Lightning, failing to register a point.
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His experience, coupled with his familiarity with Fleischmann, could spurn Coach Q to call on Weise. The Chicago Blackhawks are in need of an offensive push, though, and Richard Panik has created more offense for the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Depth is a necessity in the playoffs and that is proving to be the case for the Chicago Blackhawks right now heading into their second postseason game. The idea to play Mashinter may have seemed good on paper, but once he hit the ice, he became a liability. The ability to explore different options on offense could help the Hawks down the stretch and one of Panik or Weise will be expected to provide offense and make Chicago’s third line better rather than slow it down.
Who do you think Joel Quenneville should start in Game 2? Will Dale Weise or Richard Panik help create offense and push the Blackhawks over the top in this series? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
All stats courtesy of NHL.com.