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Chicago Blackhawks’ Sharp, Kane Join Toews On Top Forward Line

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CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 01: Patrick Sharp
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 01: Patrick Sharp /
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In coach Joel Quenneville‘s seemingly never-ending quest to find forward line that produce, the Chicago Blackhawks have tossed up their threesomes once more

Another week, another new combination of Chicago Blackhawks forward lines. Coach Joel Quenneville has brought out the line blender yet again after the Blackhawks tallied five goals across three games last week. Here’s the results, courtesy the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus:

Sigh. Let’s unpack this.

First line

If the Blackhawks starting Corey Crawford on both ends of a November back-to-back wasn’t sign enough of some early panic, the doomsday combination of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane should really hammer it home.

Kane is being taken away from Nick Schmaltz for the first time this season (outside when Schmaltz was hurt) after the second line stalled in recent games. I’m not sure this makes as much sense as back in the day, when Toews was more of an offensive threat. But it’ll always be the ultimate final option for the forwards.

Joining Toews and Kane will be Patrick Sharp, which is … interesting, to say the least. Sharp has been close to invisible all season, and I’m guessing Q hopes this old trio (like nine years ago old) can find some of that magic from back in the day.

For his part, it seems Sharp has positive thoughts about the line:

Of course, if you got to play with Kane and Toews on a line instead of Artem Anisimov and a random third person, you’d probably be happy with such a promotion.

I know Q intends for this to be a scoring line, but I think that’s an extremely hopeful idea. Toews can clear a bit of space for Kane, who is the obvious playmaker. Sharp, I guess, is the finisher, but he hasn’t shown that ability at all this season.

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Second line

Anisimov has cashed in on his special teams success to get a second-line promotion alongside Brandon Saad and Richard Panik. I do like the idea of keeping Saad and Panik together, as they were at the beginning of the season. But I think the wrong center is between them.

This would be a great spot for Schmaltz. He’s a playmaker who would benefit a ton from the space that could be cleared by Saad and Panik, the finishing ability of Saad and the budding shooting ability of Panik.

I think there would be a lot of positives that could come out of a Saad-Schmaltz-Panik line. As for what we’re actually getting … it’s OK, I guess. Saad is going to have to cover for the slow Anisimov if the latter gets stuck behind a play. Panik will need to shoot the puck instead of trying to pass it to everyone.

Third line

But with Schmaltz not on the second line, we still get an interesting third line out of this new setup. Alex DeBrincat pairs with Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman on this new unit.

DeBrincat should still be on the top six or not around at all, but I almost think of this third line as a second line without the name. At least, the potential is there.

DeBrincat and Schmaltz together could be a ton of fun, while Hartman will have to be the space clearer and finisher close to the net. This could work nicely with appropriate zone starts.

That’s the key, unfortunately. I don’t know that this line can survive in the defensive zone, so it’s going to need a lot of offensive-zone starts. But what could come from that is at least an interesting prospect.

Fourth line

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We know what this line brings. Lance Bouma, Tommy Wingels and John Hayden will be the aggressive forechecking fourth line from which. any offensive production would be a bonus.

The fourth line was solid last week, but the way the Blackhawks are going right now, they might need this trio to start scoring here and there.

Conclusions and other notes

There are two defensive notes from today’s morning skate. Defenseman Jan Rutta had a maintenance day, and it sounds like he’s going back to his natural right side come Thursday against Philadelphia.

Of course, that means Gustav Forsling is drawing back in after Michal Kempny and Connor Murphy had a solid game together Saturday against Minnesota and dominated possession Sunday versus Montreal.

I mention these together because it clearly means Forsling will replace one of these two. And considering Forsling didn’t look good before his injury, I don’t know how much better he could possibly look afterward.

But let’s wrap this up with the forwards. It’s abundantly clear at this point that Q has no idea what to do to get these forwards to produce. I’m not so sure he couldn’t afford to wait on last week’s lines for a little longer, but he apparently disagrees.

Next: Corey Crawford Has Been Carrying The Blackhawks

Regardless, if the lines fare even half decently this week, they’ll probably stay together for the next month. And I’d be glad to be wrong about my analysis for these lines, as it’s getting exhausting to watch Chicago’s offense fail so miserably this season.

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