Question 1: The Triple H line has been doing an admirable job filling in as the second line during Toews’ absence. To me, it makes sense to keep two of these three together and move Hartman and Hossa up with Toews.
Don’t mess with Panarin-Anisimov-Kane. They haven’t looked all that great lately, but they will do better back with second-line competition. Dennis Rasmussen-Marcus Kruger-Richard Panik has been the best line on the ice in recent games; leave it alone. And with Nick Schmaltz being sent down, Hinostroza can fortify the fourth-line center spot.
So the lines look like this:
Question 2: Hjalmarsson, Hjalmarsson, Hjalmarsson!
Niklas Hjalmarsson is one of the most underrated defensemen in the NHL. He’s a defensive defenseman, but he’s not afraid to pitch in offensively when needed (see his goal last Thursday against the Devils).
He can play on the left or right side, making him a highly versatile option for the coaching staff. He blocks shots, and he’s got a great stick and a great gap. This man can do it all! Speaking of which, I need to get my Hjalmarsson jersey out of the laundry.
Question 1: I’m probably the only person in this roundtable who is going to suggest the Blackhawks’ typical second line be broken up once Toews returns, but here we go. Toews should be paired with Ryan Hartman and Patrick Kane upon his return from injury.
Here’s the thing. Toews seems to actually need someone to help him produce points this season. The captain had just four goals in 21 games to go with eight assists. Not an impressive output from your top-line center. Sure, Toews does more than produce points, but you kind of need him to put the puck in the net or help it get there with the youth on Chicago’s roster this season.
Kane helps with that. The typical nuclear option was producing pretty well earlier this season. We know those two have chemistry, and Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov do not need Kane to be offensively productive. Don’t give them Jordin Tootoo or Andrew Desjardins on the right wing, but almost anyone else would work (Tyler Motte?).
More from Editorials
- Blackhawks: List Of Things To Be Thankful For This Thanksgiving
- Blackhawks: Changes to the coaching staff are a step in the right direction
- Chicago Blackhawks: Reasons for optimism and cause for concern
- Blackhawks: Kick off four game road trip against Kraken
- Recapping the Jeremy Colliton era with the Chicago Blackhawks
Hartman has looked good of late, mostly playing with Marian Hossa and Vincent Hinostroza. Imagine what Hartman might be able to do with playmaker Kane and all-around solid player Toews on his line? For everyone who wants Andrew Shaw 2.0, this is the chance.
Question 2: Michal Kempny. Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brent Seabrook take the runners-up award, but it has to be Kempny.
No, he doesn’t have the point total of Seabrook or Duncan Keith. The only player he’s outscoring (minus those who haven’t totaled a point yet) is Michal Rozsival — who has been decent in his own right. But it isn’t about the offense with Kempny.
The former KHLer has shown no apprehension about playing his first season on North American ice, and it’s almost as if there hasn’t been a learning curve. The guy looks extremely comfortable in his own zone, doesn’t get caught out of position much and wins a lot of board battles. He’s even been trying to pinch in on some offensive plays of late.
Kempny, in turn, has made Seabrook look good as well. The two play well off each other, with Kempny more defensive-minded and Seabrook aiming to set up offense. That’s why it was baffling when Kempny took a multi-game seat recently — only to return to babysit Trevor van Riemsdyk for a game. That has to be the most conflicting signal of trust/non-trust in the history of Joel Quenneville being a coach.
Regardless, Kempny has been the Blackhawks’ most surprising and successful blueliner so far this season.