Question 1: Ignoring the fact that the lines are going to be all messed up (outside the top one) the next two nights due to Nick Schmaltz’s injury, I think Ryan Hartman should stay at second-line left wing for the time being.
It’s pretty clear he clicks well with Schmaltz, and I’m hoping Schmaltz’s injury doesn’t throw him off in any way. I’m not sure Hartman would be working as well on the second line without Schmaltz as his center, something that could get proven right or wrong tonight.
Yeah, Patrick Kane always has an influence, but Hartman and Schmaltz just seem to play well off each other. One is more of an east-west guy in Schmaltz, while Hartman is more of a north-south guy. Schmaltz has more of the wheels, and Hartman has more of the dirty-goal/power forward mentality. It definitely works, especially with a playmaker like Kane to tie it up.
Alex DeBrincat has looked entirely fine on the third line so far, and I think it’s best for him to learn from veterans like Patrick Sharp and Artem Anisimov for now. Again, this is all going to get screwed up this week, but thinking past that point, DeBrincat’s current home should be on the third line.
Question 2: I get the benefit of putting together this post each week, which means I’m always the last one to respond. And sometimes that means you get to find out things like Anton Forsberg will be starting in place of Corey Crawford tonight.
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So, my answer was probably going to be Edmonton by a McDavid-shaped nose over Toronto. I’m now changing my answer to the Leafs. Coach Joel Quenneville is showing some real chutzpah early by sending Forsberg out against an offense that produced 15 goals in two games.
Yes, it’s good to make sure you aren’t running your starter out there every night right off the bat, especially with how important Crow is to the Blackhawks. But this is an interesting place to lean on Forsberg. I almost think playing him against Montreal on Tuesday would’ve made more sense (of course, Crow is from Montreal, so I’m sure that was a factor).
So combine that with the Blackhawks getting last change for the first time and not facing a backup goaltender for the first time (though Frederik Andersen isn’t Carey Price), not to mention a super-talented and speedy forward group, and you’ve got a nice test early.
Question 1: Alex DeBrincat has shown that he is not afraid to lay a hit on an opponent and play tough when he is on the ice, but at 5-foot-7 he is not the ideal line partner for what is already a small group.
Not only has Hartman found success on the second line already this year, he is a little bigger and more experienced in the NHL. While the thought of having the OHL leader in points a season ago on the same line as Patrick Kane is exciting, there is no reason to make a switch until that line struggles to produce.
Question 2: At Toronto today. The ‘Hawks will be up against one of the highest-scoring offenses of the young season and playing their first away game of the year.
It will be a true test for the defense, a unit that has been criticized all offseason as being a bad mix of slow and inexperienced. Corey Crawford will need to be on his game, and the offense that has scored 15 goals in two games will need to find a way to stay hot.
(Editor’s note: This response was given before the Blackhawks announced Forsberg would be starting in goal.)