Analysis

Chicago Blackhawks’ Bottom Six Still Has To Take Shape

By Gail Kauchak
Feb 26, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Artem Anisimov (center) celebrates scoring a goal with right wing Patrick Kane (left) and defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk (right) ) during the third period against the St. Louis Blues at the United Center. Chicago won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 26, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Artem Anisimov (center) celebrates scoring a goal with right wing Patrick Kane (left) and defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk (right) ) during the third period against the St. Louis Blues at the United Center. Chicago won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /
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Feb 26, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Tanner Kero (67) is congratulated for scoring goal by right wing Marian Hossa (81) during the third period against the St. Louis Blues at the United Center. Chicago won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 26, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Tanner Kero (67) is congratulated for scoring goal by right wing Marian Hossa (81) during the third period against the St. Louis Blues at the United Center. Chicago won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

Charting the third and fourth lines

But what about after those top six? Over the past month, the third and fourth lines have predominantly looked like this:

Ryan HartmanTanner KeroMarian Hossa

?-Marcus Kruger-?

Let’s talk first about what we do know, and then we can look at filling in the question marks. First off, it appears that for balance reasons Hossa will play on the third line, just as he did in last year’s playoffs.

This could be a very dangerous thing. Hossa can play that shutdown role to a T, as well as be an incredible offensive threat; especially if he can build some chemistry with his linemates. Kero and Hartman appear to be working on that chemistry.

Chicago Blackhawks

But while Hossa appears to be an absolute on the third line, Hartman and Kero are not. Both have recently spent time on the fourth line as well. Coach Q has been switching out Kero and Kruger as third- and fourth-line centers. He also played newly acquired Tomas Jurco on the third line recently, while Hartman spent time on the fourth line.

Since being acquired, Jurco has played in six games before being a healthy scratch against the Wild on Sunday. He hasn’t generated any points, but you have to remember he’s new to the team and its system.

He’s been compared to Richard Panik, a diamond in the rough that could benefit from a fresh start. If you recall, Panik didn’t look all that great either until the playoffs last season. Jurco could still emerge as a presence.

Who else could possibly fill in the question marks? You have two veterans in Andrew Desjardins and Jordin Tootoo. Desjardins has one assist in 39 games played. Tootoo has a goal and an assist in 40 games played.

While I love both of these guys and want to see them succeed, they just don’t have a whole lot to offer. For the most part, they hold up their end of the defensive bargain, but they both play very limited ice time, as Q doesn’t trust them with more minutes. While I’m sure they both have a great presence in the locker room, they don’t contribute to rolling four lines.

So who else is available? Enter Dennis Rasmussen, who for some reason is in Coach Q’s doghouse.

He hasn’t cracked the lineup in the last four games; but why? Ras is strong on the penalty kill, and he plays a solid shutdown game. He also can contribute in the faceoff circle when needed.

I think the coaching staff is trying to see if someone else might have more value on the offensive end. But like Kruger, it’s hard to replace Rasmussen’s defensive value.

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