Chicago Blackhawks Roundtable: Surprises And Defensive Lineups

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Tim Martens

Question 1: Honestly, Ryan Hartman has impressed me quite a bit so far this year. He’s had the two goals and six assists in the first five games, but some people are crediting this specifically with being on a line with Patrick Kane.

While there is some truth in that, if you have watched Hartman he has actually skated incredibly well with the puck and made some things happen entering into and within the offensive zone. He was the best skater on the ice in what was an otherwise disappointing game against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, and he has shown he can be more than a bottom-six forward.

If Hartman keeps it up, the second line will be dangerous this year, especially with Nick Schmaltz healthy.

Question 2: After the obvious two defensemen that will have to be on the ice in Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, I think Connor Murphy, Jan Rutta, Michal Kempny and Gustav Forsling should be the Blackhawks’ defensemen.

Rutta has been a pleasant surprise early on the season, the ‘Hawks invested too much in Murphy in the Hjalmarsson trade to not give him the chance to produce on the ice, and giving Kempny and Forsling playing time to develop their skill sets has the possibility of much longer franchise benefits than hoping Cody Franson is going to turn his career around in Chicago.

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Matthew Morrow

Question 1: I’m very reluctant to say Nick Schmaltz because of his limited ice time, but seriously, look how much deeper and better he makes the lineup in his presence.

He looks faster and more confident this season and seems to be thriving in his natural center role. He and Patrick Kane honestly may form a more dynamic duo than 72-88, and that’s saying something.

As far as Blackhawks who have played every game, Richard Panik has been impressive. He looks bigger and stronger, and he and Brandon Saad seem to play well together, forming a monster of a top line. It’s hard to pick just one. It’s going to be a good season!

Question 2: Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Connor Murphy, Jan Rutta, Michal Kempny, Cody Franson. The first two are self explanatory. Murphy was acquired for a reason this offseason, and is going to be part of this franchise for a long time. He’s not afraid to use his body, and has an offensive upside.

Rutta has been just downright impressive so far. As far as the last two, it was hard to leave Gustav Forsling out, and we haven’t seen any regular-season action from Jordan Osterle yet.

I like Kempny’s shot from the point, and he has a lot of potential if he can just get more experience. I would like to see Franson play a little bit more because although he is slow, he has a huge slap shot and he can help the powerplay. The Blackhawks were obviously missing size last postseason, especially on the back end, and Franson provides just that.

Keith Schultz

Question 1: John Hayden has been my most surprising. He’s up to any role Q has given him, whether it’s fourth-line grinder or being an enforcer on the ice. Everyone will focus on that one punch, but it’s the fact that he’s finished off all his checks that has been noticeable to me.

Question 2: Keith-Seabrook, Kempny-Rutta, Forsling-Murphy

Next: Blackhawks' 4-1-1 Start Somewhat Deceptive

These pairings I’m fine with. Franson has been OK too when he’s played. I like the fact that Murphy throws his body around while Rutta and Forsling are trying to get the ’Hawks’ transition game kicked off right each time they are on the ice.