Blackhawks’ Andrew Shaw Will Play On Top Line
You knew the lines Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville rolled out for Thursday’s fifth Stanley Cup Playoffs game in the first-round series against the St. Louis Blues weren’t going to stick for Game 6. That much was clear for two reasons: 1) The Blackhawks were relatively lucky to escape with a win and 2) Andrew Shaw wasn’t on them.
Shaw was suspended by the NHL for Game 5 after using a homophobic slur against a referee late in Game 4. Shaw described watching watching Game 5 from the locker room as nerve-wracking, and it’s clear he’s happy to be back in the lineup. Where he slots in, however may be a bit of a surprise to some Blackhawks fans.
The morning skate lines have Shaw taking Richard Panik‘s spot on the top line alongside Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Panik, meanwhile, slots down to the fourth line with Andrew Desjardins and Dale Weise, while everything else remains the same.
This is an interesting lineup change from Q, more so because of where Shaw ended up. Panik had a nice game alongside Toews and Kane, working fairly well in taking Kane’s feeds and trying to set up scoring chances for him as well. Panik certainly wasn’t bad, but Q believes Shaw has more to offer alongside the two star forwards.
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He could be right, too. Shaw was probably one of the Blackhawks’ better forwards before his suspension, constantly moving his feet and getting to the net. Both of those have been missing from several of the Blackhawks in this series, likely due to a frequently-seen desire to fire pucks from above the circles in order to avoid the Blues’ punishing defensemen below the dots. Shaw hasn’t been worried to go to the dirty areas, and he could clean up scoring chances generated by Toews and Kane.
Panik’s move to the fourth line also makes that unit useful. It would’ve improved with Shaw on it as well, and Brandon Mashinter taking a seat regardless, but a Panik-Desjardins-Weise line speaks as one that could be out to prove something. All three of those guys have been healthy scratched at least one game in this series, and they’ve all looked pretty good on the ice at different stretches. Weise in particular looked solid Thursday, actually pressuring Blues players and trying to generate turnovers as a result, while also going hard to the net in his limited minutes (as a result of being saddled with Mashinter).
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The defensive lineup will also remain the same, much to the chagrin of anyone who actually watched Thursday’s game.Corey Crawford
will also be in net once again, which is certainly going to be necessary.
The Blackhawks are going to need to up their intensity from Game 5, as they essentially let the Blues dominate play for large stretches of the second, third and fourth periods. The Blues were easily able to gain zone entry in the third period and first overtime. Having last change hasn’t exactly helped the Blackhawks in this series, as they lost Games 3 and 4. Sure, both were there for the taking — as every game has been in this series — but this Blues team is proving more and more that it isn’t the mental pushover it has been in the past, and that’s important right now.
By that same token, if the Blackhawks can actually jump out to an early, extended lead, the Blues could revert to their certainly-existent, combustible form. This lineup may be the Blackhawks’ best shot at making that happen. It’s just a matter of getting off to a quick start and continually pushing, instead of letting the Blues dictate the pace and style of play.