Editorials

Chicago Blackhawks’ Second Line Must Stay Together

By Gregory Bradshaw
Apr 15, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Artemi Panarin (72) celebrates with Patrick Kane (88) and Artem Anisimov (15) after scoring the game-winning goal during the third period in game two of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center. The Blackhawks won the game 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 15, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Artemi Panarin (72) celebrates with Patrick Kane (88) and Artem Anisimov (15) after scoring the game-winning goal during the third period in game two of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center. The Blackhawks won the game 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Chicago Blackhawks’ second line put on a clinic in Tuesday’s victory over the Philadelphia Flyers, proving it is still the most dangerous line in the NHL

It’s back, Chicago Blackhawks’ fans!

If there was any doubt in your mind that the trio of Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane would cool down and not return to last year’s incredible form, Tuesday should have laid all pessimism to rest. Eleven total points (five goals and six assists) were scored from the Panarin-Anisimov-Kane line alone, and you can imagine this is only the beginning of what these guys have in store for the rest of the season.

The argument has been made that the Chicago Blackhawks can’t continue to rely on only one consistent scoring line if they hope to make it through the tough Western Conference, and that is undoubtedly the truth. Four potent lines is the recipe for success in the NHL.

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But here’s what the advocates for splitting up the ‘Hawks’ second line must realize

Panarin looks downright invisible on the top line. Granted, he may just need more time to mesh with Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik/Marian Hossa, but he has without a doubt looked out of sync when called upon to skate on the top line.

This has never been the case when Panarin is alongside his partner in crime, Kane. In fact, Panarin’s first-ever NHL goal in his first NHL game came off beautiful feed by, you guessed it, Kane.

Coincidence? I think not. This is all due to the natural chemistry these two players have, and it’s like the old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

It’s time to work with what Chicago already has

The ’Hawks may be thinner than ever when it comes to forward depth, but there are a number of rookies who could really step up this season, and possibly find a similar chemistry with Toews or Panik/Hossa as Kane and Panarin have.

Tyler Motte didn’t exactly stand out as that guy immediately, but who said it would be that easy? Patience is the key here. Give players time to create chemistry with the top line.

Take Panik, for example — a journeyman in the NHL who is really finding his game on the Toews line. All it took was some time, and the results have done wonders for the Blackhawks’ top line.

What ‘Hawks fans must realize is that these rookies aren’t future franchise superstars. Nick Schmaltz is not Auston Matthews. Players like Motte, Vincent Hinostroza and Ryan Hartman will never play at the same high level as Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel.

The rookies will require time, whereas the others mentioned were expected to succeed and have succeeded at making an immediate impact.

While they still are good players, rather than superstars, the ‘Hawks have found some high caliber role players.

It’s an absolutely necessity to the future of the team and to the formation of four impactful lines. Scoring will come from other lines; it may take some time, but I don’t think anyone can deny the impressive defense that the ‘Hawks’ forwards have provided thus far.

Although scoring is a necessity, a two-way style of play coming from all four lines certainly increases the chance for getting a win on any given night.

Conclusion

As for the scenario of splitting up Kane and Panarin in order to spread the offense throughout the lineup, my argument against it is simple. These two highly skilled wingers are almost in each other’s heads every minute they spend on the ice together.

They complement one another in a way that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the ‘Hawks’ four lines, and quite possibly in the entire league. They are very good on their own, but when playing together, they are fantastic.

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Leave the second line alone. Allow other players the time to gel on the top line. The goals will come, and quite possibly a new bond will be formed that could consistently get the scoring going.

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