Editorials

Chicago Blackhawks’ Top Candidates For The First Line

By Gail Kauchak
Apr 23, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) with the puck during the first period in game six of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the St. Louis Blues at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 23, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) with the puck during the first period in game six of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the St. Louis Blues at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /
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Left Wing

The Hawks struggled to find a replacement for Brandon Saad all of last season.  A few people had some success there, such as Andrew Shaw and Andrew Ladd.  But for the most part, the top line left wing position was a revolving door in ineffectiveness.  It didn’t help the other two players on this line, Toews and Hossa, who both had relatively mediocre seasons.

So one of the first ways to bolster the offense this year would be to find someone who could be as effective as Saad on the left wing.  Or at least someone that could consistently compliment Toews and Hossa (or whoever ends up playing on the right wing).

After the first four exhibition games, there are a few candidates that have stood out to potentially fill this role.  One of them is prospect Nick Schmaltz.  Schmaltz has played in three of the four preseason games, lining up on the left side first line position for two of them.

This is what The Athletic’s Scott Powers has to say about Schmaltz.  “Schmaltz creates, especially off the pass. He sees the ice differently than most and has quick hands which allow him to make quick decisions. There have been a number of times in the first two games where he’s opened up ice for his teammates with passes. He can do a lot with little room.”

Another prospect in contention for this position is Tyler Motte.  He has also played on the left side for three matchups, on both the second and third lines.  He didn’t impress too much in the first two games, but man did he make a statement on Saturday night!  He came away with two goals, one of them being a short-handed goal.

Like Marcus Kruger, Motte prides himself on his defense, and loves to play on the penalty kill.  This could make him quite valuable and viable for a spot in the lineup.

Finally, Coach Q rocked everyone’s world by separating Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin on Saturday night.  While Kane and Artem Anisimov played on the first line (with Schmaltz by the way), Panarin found himself on the second line.

Now, the popular opinion with all this is that Panarin could play on the first line with Toews to spread the offensive wealth.  And I’m sure this is definitely something the coaching staff wants to explore.  But whenever Panarin played with Toews last season, they didn’t seem to have much chemistry.  Certainly not the instant chemistry that Kane and Panarin have, that’s for sure.

And these two proved it again on Saturday night.  As soon as they were put together on a shift, they scored (Panarin with the goal, and Kane with the assist).  In my opinion, if Coach Q can find any other options, he will continue to keep Kane and Panarin on the same line.

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