Question No. 2: How would you arrange the Blackhawks’ defensive pairings using the eight players currently on the roster (assume Trevor van Riemsdyk is healthy)?
I’m actually really content with the current defensive pairings we’ve been seeing throughout the past week — Duncan Keith-Brian Campbell, Michal Kempny–Brent Seabrook and Gustav Forsling–Niklas Hjalmarsson.
TVR and Michal Rozsival have been the odd men out and I expect it to stay that way, but I see them both most likely getting paired with Kempny or Forsling on the bottom five and six pairing, with Hjammer being paired with Seabrook.
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With Michal Kempny playing much better, I like the current pairings: Keith-Campbell, Kempny-Seabrook and Forsling-Hjalmarsson. Rozsival (No. 7) and TVR (No. 8) are scratches.
Rozsival has looked solid this year, and should get regular starts paired with either Kempny or Forsling on the left side. ‘Czech-mates’ Kempny and Rozsival have shown impressive synergy and mutual support when playing together.
When TVR gets healthy, pair him with Keith and give Campbell a rest. The number of other possible combinations gives me a headache.
Guy 3-Guy 4
The Blackhawks’ top pair needs to be reunited in the worst way. Stack your best D-men and let that third pairing of whomever get some experience. It’s pretty tough to play great defense and produce points in this league, unless you’re Duncan Keith.
This is a very difficult question. The pairings are going to change over the course of the season, as Q is experimenting with his new guys to find their strengths and weaknesses. He’s also testing his vets to see what he can get out of them.
But if the playoffs started tomorrow, I feel the strongest pairings would be this:
with TVR and Forsling on the outside.
I almost went with Hjammer on first pairing and Seabs on the second, but the above scenario provides more balance. Keith and Seabs have played well together for years, and are currently used often on the powerplay.
A Campbell/Hjalmarsson pairing allows Campbell to play on his natural left side, and Hjammer actually now prefers the right side to the left.
By this point, Kempny will have developed into a stronger option than Forsling. And Rozsival will have been used sparingly throughout the season. This will allow him to be fresh, and provide consistent play similar to what we’ve seen in the three games he’s played so far. Unless TVR has a huge turnaround, Rozy’s experience will be the way to go.
Duncan Keith and Brian Campbell together has been a somewhat sketchy combo of late. They’ve seemingly been on the ice for a fair number of goals against during the Blackhawks’ winning streak. It’s interesting, considering both of these guys are more than capable of moving the puck the other way.
I think these three pairings give the Blackhawks someone who can push the puck/chip in on offense (Keith, Campbell and Brent Seabrook) and someone who can stay at home a little more (Niklas Hjalmarsson, Gustav Forsling, Michal Kempny) in each duo.
There’s no need to explain why Keith-Hjammer works. I think Forsling and Campbell have also worked really well together in the past. Forsling seems extremely comfortable all across the ice despite his limited NHL experience, and he plays off the puck-moving Campbell pretty well.
I was nervous about the idea of Kempny-Seabrook entering the regular season, but Seabrook has been much better this season than last, and Kempny is rapidly picking up the NHL style of play. These three pairings should provide balance up and down the card.
Michal Rozsival has been better than expected, but he’s still an older guy who should be shifted in and out of the lineup. Trevor van Riemsdyk should just be shifted off the roster altogether.
Duncan Keith – Brent Seabrook
Brian Campbell – Niklas Hjalmmerson
Gustav Forsling – Michal Kempney/Michal Rozsival
Keith and Seabrook need to be reunited after such a long hiatus to rekindle their proven chemistry and set the defensive standard for the rest of the blue line to model after.
As a stay-at-home defenseman, Hammer needs a proven puck moving D-man in Soupy to complement his game the way Johnny Oduya did.
Forsling has been the best surprise on the blue line for the ‘Hawks this year, and right now he needs the full confidence of the coaching staff behind him to flourish. Putting Kempny in a timeshare with Rozy will force him to sharpen his game and play smarter than he is now by making him realize he has to earn his ice time.
Trevor van Riemsdyk has had more than his fair share of chances to prove he can be an effective blueliner for the Hawks and has failed. He shouldn’t be on the ice in the city of Chicago going forward for any reason.
I’m a big stickler on keeping defensive pairing that can do a little bit of everything. At the top, you put the best offensive and defensive defenders the Blackhawks have with Keith providing the offensive spark and Hjalmarsson backing the team defensively.
The second and third pairings are interchangeable for ice time in my book, but again it’s about offensive and defensive balance. Campbell can move the puck well and provide offensively while van Riemsdyk is more of a defensive presence, while both move well around the ice.
Seabrook is not a strictly defensive presence and can add a powerful shot offensively, but Kempny hasn’t been able to provide much offensively for the Blackhawks yet this season, so pairing him with Seabrook can curb that.
I still think Kempny is the more useful puck mover and shot-suppressor than Forsling, but I think it would be worth rotating Forsling and van Riemsdyk to make sure that both will have ample ice time to replace the minutes lost by Campbell leaving the team after this season.