The good news is that even the things we complained about above were all better in the last game against the Preds, which was a win. The Hawks are a work in progress. They have six rookies in the lineup; it’s going to take time for things to gel. Here are some things that were different and encouraging in Saturday night’s win.
Top line was the top line. That’s why they call it the top line. It’s supposed to be the best line on the ice. That hasn’t been the case for a long time; but it was true last night. Toews was flanked by Panik on his right, and Vinnie Hinostroza on his left. I’m sure I’m not the only one that was surprised by Hinostroza on the first line left wing. But the Hawks won, so look to see this combination again.
Panik, as we know, scored three goals. And although neither Toews or Hinostroza recorded any points, they led in possession numbers. Again, these stats are compliments of Scott Powers. Toews was a plus-5 Corsi and Hinostroza and Panik were plus-4 Corsi.
Rolling four lines. While we’re on the subject of lines, the Hawks truly rolled four lines Saturday night. Instead of seeing fourth line players like Tootoo with ice time of 4:26 and 4:18 minutes, everyone clocked over 10 minutes of time on the ice.
The way Coach Q managed this is a bit unorthodox, but it worked. In the interest of trying to combine balance and familiarity, the coaching staff has a rookie on the first line (see above), the Panarin-Anisimov-Kane line intact, a jumbled third line of Dennis Rasmussen–Marcus Kruger-Tootoo, and a fourth line of two rookies (Tyler Motte and Schmaltz) alongside Marian Hossa. That’s right, Hossa is on the fourth line, with two rookies. Well, Schmaltz scored, and Hossa and Motte both had assists. So hey, whatever works.
The Rasmussen factor. Dennis Rasmussen drew in for the injured Ryan Hartman, who left Friday night’s game with a lower body injury early in the first period. It’s been reported that Hartman is listed as day-to-day, and a replacement will not be called up from the Rockford IceHogs. This leaves Rasmussen, who was a healthy scratch for the first two games, as the man that gets the call.
Rasmussen isn’t a rookie; he played in 44 games last season for the Chicago Blackhawks. Although he never did fully establish himself as a regular. He performed well in the preseason, but has appeared to have lost the fourth line center position to Schmaltz.
Saturday night he played on the left wing of the third line. He recorded 12:35 minutes of ice time, a shot on goal, 2 hits, and 3 blocked shots. He even took a shift on the penalty kill. His shot blocking abilities could be helpful to the struggling penalty kill. And his familiarity with the systems and players, along with his energy, could earn him a more regular spot going forward. This is his chance to shine, and he knows it.
Goaltending is golden. Another thing that was different about Saturday night was that Scott Darling was in goal instead of Corey Crawford. He played an excellent game; there is something about the Nashville Predators that brings out the best in Darls. But other than that, I’m not even going to go there.
Crawford is the number one goaltender for the Chicago Blackhawks. He wasn’t the problem in the first two games. The penalty kill was the problem. If anything, seeing Darling have a solid game just goes to show how lucky the Hawks are in net.
The Chicago Blackhawks carry on with their next game this Tuesday, against the Philadelphia Flyers. They also play on both Friday and Saturday night this weekend, so don’t make too many plans. Can they continue to trend in the right direction? A few wins could certainly go a long way towards building confidence for the youngsters and veterans alike.
Now all we need is for Hossa to score goal number 500 for his career. The next one will be the one! What better reason to tune in to Chicago Blackhawks hockey this week?!
LET’S GO HAWKS!!!