Chicago Blackhawks’ Proposed (Fictional) Lineup For Regular-Season Finale
By Colin Likas
The Chicago Blackhawks need everyone as healthy as possible heading into the postseason, especially the big guns. So why not go out and find some guys to serve as “replacements” for tonight’s regular-season finale?
One thing was abundantly clear before the final week of the regular season began for the Chicago Blackhawks: They’d need to do everything in their power to stay healthy for the postseason ahead.
That goal was achieved against the Colorado Avalanche, but the Anaheim Ducks were having none of it. Ryan Hartman took a wicked slash from Corey Perry (possibly exacerbating a previous finger injury), Andrew Desjardins suffered a lower-body injury and Michal Rozsival was cheap-shotted out of the game by Nick Ritchie.
So, overall, not a great night for the Blackhawks, not to mention them losing 4-0 on the road. Tonight, they conclude the regular season with a game against the Los Angeles Kings. Unlike the Ducks, the Kings aren’t playing for postseason positioning — they’ll be watching the games at home.
The Blackhawks are going to do their damndest to try and keep everyone — especially the big guns — healthy before the playoffs start Wednesday. While the Kings are a rugged bunch, you’d really hope they wouldn’t try and take liberties with guys.
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Drew Doughty was the target of an unhinged Matthew Tkachuk recently, so they should be well aware how ridiculous it is to have to worry about a star player being chased around the ice.
With that said, wouldn’t it just be great if the Blackhawks could ignore the salary cap for this one day and grab some warm bodies to fill the lineup? Well, that’s what this post is all about today. Since there will be next to nothing to take away from this game, I present to you the Blackhawks’ fictional lineup for the regular-season finale.
Eric Daze–Nick Schmaltz–Artemi Panarin
Now, I didn’t say the lineup only had to feature a certain type of player. Schmaltz and Panarin are obviously both active, but while you don’t want them injured, it’s probably also better to have them suit up tonight.
Panarin is chasing a performance bonus for being in the NHL’s top 10 in scoring. Panarin is currently tied for 10th in the league in this category, so sitting Panarin — even if it makes total sense from a health standpoint — would be a bad look for the Blackhawks.
Schmaltz is going to be the best-available offensive center for Panarin tonight. But on the left wing, let’s have some fun. Daze was part of this year’s Winter Classic Alumni Game, and with this game meaningless, why not let him skate?
The big 41-year-old scored all 398 of his career regular-season points with the Blackhawks, and they could let this be his “One More Shift.”
John Hayden-Tanner Kero-Jamal Mayers
This is the second line we all want, right? Hayden has been playing a passionate, team-focused style since his arrival in the NHL, so why not reward him with a line bump? Kero has been seeing second-line shifts at center since Artem Anisimov‘s injury, so makes sense to leave him there.
Mayers may not have ever played on a second line in his life in the NHL. The guy became a key locker room presence during Chicago’s run to the Stanley Cup in 2013, and has stuck around with the team in an analyst ever since.
Why not thank him for his brief service to the club by letting him have some fun in a game? He and Jarome Iginla could even get in a scrap, for old time’s sake. Mayers also played in the Alumni Game and obviously isn’t far removed from lacing up the skates in actual NHL action.
Vinnie Hinostroza–Dennis Rasmussen–Ben Eager
Please, Blackhawks, sit out Marcus Kruger tonight. If Anisimov might miss Game 1 of a first-round playoff series, the Blackhawks’ center depth can not get any sketchier beyond Jonathan Toews. Sit the Swede.
Hinostroza hasn’t played much since his call-up (not that it was that long ago), so this is the perfect game to get him in. Honestly, he could buzz around most of Los Angeles’ relatively slow lineup and possibly pot a goal.
Rasmussen makes sense to center a line if the Blackhawks are resting someone like Kruger. And to make this line truly … something, let’s see if Eager wants to return to NHL action.
Eager, another 2017 Alumni Game participant, last played in the NHL 2013-14 with Edmonton and last played professionally with the Chicago Wolves a year after that. No doubt the 33-year-old would be all about throwing his weight around and ruining a goaltender’s day one more time.
Bryan Bickell–Daniel Carcillo–Jordin Tootoo
Best line ever, no? Bickell may have just two games remaining in his NHL career, as an emotional interview conducted Thursday after a loss to the New York Islanders indicated he may be retiring soon due to complications of multiple sclerosis.
Bickell can play in the Hurricanes’ regular-season finale Sunday, and the team can loan him back to Chicago for a proper sendoff tonight in Los Angeles. Admittedly, you might want to get Bickell’s approval before shipping him across the country and back, but I’ll bet he’d enjoy the idea of getting to see some of his former teammates and skate with the Blackhawks one last time.
Carcillo and Tootoo make up the “why not” portion of the forwards. No doubt they’d have fun trying to score on far better NHL players, and probably trying to stir it up with everyone in sight. Just have all three of these guys alternate taking draws.
Gustav Forsling–Trevor van Riemsdyk
I mean … we’re really going “why not” here, so let’s go for it. Forsling would get an instant crash course in defending odd-man rushes all night, and TVR could actually spend the night doing what he most wants to do in the NHL: play forward. Have a ball, guys.
Michal Kempny–Brent Sopel
Sopel would be the perfect veteran voice to grab Kempny’s ear in the Czech’s first NHL season. No doubt it’s been a frustrating one for Kempny, but Sopel has dealt with frustration his whole life.
His story in The Players’ Tribune about having undiagnosed dysgraphia made for a powerful read recently, and showed an extra thing he had to battle through in the NHL. A game alongside Sopel’s steady influence and never-give-up attitude would be great for Kempny.
Steve Konroyd-David Rundblad
Konroyd can be easily plucked from his post as a Blackhawks analyst/”color” commentator (emphasis mine, since the colors he provides are usually black and white), while Rundblad is probably playing in Europe somewhere (Switzerland, upon a check-up).
Even Konroyd would probably snap after a few minutes with this pairing, which would be worth the price of admission.
Scott Darling–Ray Emery
Might as well keep Darling in top shape for the postseason while also making sure Corey Crawford stays healthy. Remember 2015 against Nashville? Never know when you might need the backup.
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Emery actually last played in 2015-16, in the AHL and DEL, so he’s not far removed from lacing up the skates. He can also take some shifts with Carcillo and Tootoo to make one of the most ridiculous “grind lines” in NHL history.