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Analysis

Chicago Blackhawks Defensive Pairings Battle: BU Vs. Joel Quenneville

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CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 08: Ryan Ellis
CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 08: Ryan Ellis /
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LOS ANGELES, CA – APRIL 08: Gustav Forsling
LOS ANGELES, CA – APRIL 08: Gustav Forsling /

Third pairing predictions

Blackhawk Up prediction: Gustav Forsling-Jan Rutta

Joel Quenneville prediction: Michal Kempny-Jan Rutta

Admittedly, this is the weak spot of my prediction. If Coach Q does go with the pairings I suggested for him, this one would be really interesting. It’d be an all-Czech line, with Rutta filling the role Kempny took last season — defenseman in his first year of North American hockey.

I wouldn’t be terribly opposed to that, honestly. Kempny is a puck mover who stays at home more often, while Rutta is known to be a scoring defenseman. That pairing could work well, even if it’d get the shaft as far as playing time goes.

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But my preference would be to put Forsling with Rutta. These are the two guys I’d trust the least heading into the 2017-18 season, but they’re obviously not bad players. Both guys are offensively inclined from the back end, so the pairing would probably get as many offensive-zone starts as Quenneville could muster.

These guys could play something like 14 to 15 minutes a night and learn a lot from each other. Forsling could point out some aspects of the North American game to Rutta, while Rutta could just offer more general hockey knowledge, being roughly six years older than Forsling.

They’d also learn more defensive responsibility at this level. Since both guys are more offensively inclined, it’s obviously important they don’t both go rushing up the ice and abandon Corey Crawford or whoever else is in goal. With more controlled zone starts (specifically at the United Center), these two could cut their teeth in that respect.

Plus, I think the big guy-small guy dynamic works better on a pairing that doesn’t see as much crucial-moment time on the ice. Rutta can bail out Forsling in certain spots as a result of being a big body (6-3, 200 pounds).

So those are some thoughts on how the Blackhawks’ defense might look to start the 2017-18 season. I didn’t talk about Rozsival, but he can always slide in at random to give one of these other six guys the night off. And who knows how things could change if Campbell returns to the team?

Next: Believe In Blackhawks' Connor Murphy

There are a lot of moving parts with this blue line, so the pairings will likely remain very fluid. There will be some concerning moments, for sure, but there’s also future promise among this group.

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