Chicago Blackhawks’ Jordin Tootoo Gets The Call Against Former Team
By Gail Kauchak
While the top three lines for the Chicago Blackhawks are fairly set heading into the playoffs, the fourth line still appears to be a work in progress. To the surprise of many, it looks like Jordin Tootoo is getting the call to start against his former team.
The Chicago Blackhawks take to the ice for the first round tonight, against a familiar foe in the Nashville Predators. Coming out of their practices on Tuesday and Wednesday, it appears the fourth line to start this series will be John Hayden, Tanner Kero and Jordin Tootoo.
It was expected that Kero would get the nod; he’s been doing an excellent job centering the second line while Artem Anisimov has been sidelined. But the other two are a bit of a surprise. To you, maybe. I’m actually not at all surprised by the pick of Tootoo.
After all, the Nashville Predators are his old team, the team with which he started in the NHL, and where he spent most of his career. Playing your former team always gives a player some extra motivation.
When the Hawks took on the Preds on March 4, Tootoo played arguably one of his best games of the season. He dropped the gloves when it was called for, and drew a penalty in which the ’Hawks scored on the ensuing power play. Oh, and it was also when he scored his first goal of the season.
I know, I know, that was only one game. But Tootoo has been trending upward of late. And he’s been rewarded with more ice time. Coach Q likes his veterans, and who better to hold down a line with two wide-eyed rookies in Kero and Hayden? Tootoo’s also participated in 40 playoff games in his career. He could provide the experience and the steadiness that is needed in playoff hockey.
Let’s take a look at who Tootoo is up against for a spot in the lineup. There’s Andrew Desjardins, who’s questionable with an undisclosed injury (day-to-day). Tomas Jurco has shown flashes at times, but he can’t seem to find any consistency.
Then you have Dennis Rasmussen. I personally still think Ras will play a part at some point, whether it be this series or further down the road (hopefully). Vinnie Hinostroza is an option, but he’s a long shot, as he doesn’t appear to be ready yet. When you look at these other options, Tootoo starts to make a little more sense.
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Toots is also somewhat of a leader on the team. On March 19, the ’Hawks were losing 3-1 to the Colorado Avalanche at the end of two periods. During the intermission, Tootoo stepped up in the locker room and said a few words.
Apparently it was the spark the team needed, because the Blackhawks went on to score five unanswered goals in the third period, and won the game 6-3.
Captain Jonathan Toews, who is a leader in his own right, was the first person to concede that Tootoo’s words struck a chord with the group.
The following is an excerpt from an article by Brian Hedger of The Athletic: “Toots was the first guy to say it, that we just needed one goal to wake us up, give us some energy and get the crowd into it,” said Toews. “He’s always vocal, but tonight he said the right things, and I think we all kind of collectively made that decision that we had to play better.”
Here’s another thing to get excited about. Tootoo has scored one other goal this season, and it was John Hayden, his new playoff linemate, who provided the assist. Hayden was another long shot to make this lineup, but that’s another story for another day.
Obviously it’s not the primary job of the fourth line to score goals, but if these two guys, along with Kero, can continue to build on that chemistry … well, isn’t it “four lines rolling” that you need to win in the playoffs?
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With Michal Rozsival out of commission for who knows how long, the Chicago Blackhawks need a new “old guy” to hoist the Cup after Toews. Am I getting carried away? Well, maybe, but you have to admit it’s a pretty good storyline. You can all give me crap when Tootoo plays three minutes tonight and doesn’t see the ice again. But I hope for everyone’s sake that’s not the case.
Good luck, Toots!