Chicago Blackhawks’ Hayden A Healthy Scratch, Seabrook Demoted

ST. PAUL, MN - NOVEMBER 4: John Hayden
ST. PAUL, MN - NOVEMBER 4: John Hayden /

Another Chicago Blackhawks game, another line jumble for coach Joel Quenneville, who seems to be running out of answers for the offensive struggle question

There’s little more than can be said at this point about the Chicago Blackhawks’ offensive struggles that hasn’t already been discussed. Coach Joel Quenneville knows this, and so all he figures he can do is keep throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks.

That’s how, just two days after new lines and pairings were set up for a 3-1 loss at Philadelphia, we have more new lines and pairings ahead of tonight’s game in Carolina.

To clarify the scratch ordeal from the first tweet, the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus later said it appears John Hayden will be scratched for the first time this season.

Let’s try to acquire some talking points from this latest lineup jumble.

Kero draws back in

Tanner Kero, like Jordan Oesterle on the defensive end, has been the odd man out at forward for some time. Q decided Kero needed another look and has given him a pretty interesting line to work with.

Alex DeBrincat is back to being incorrectly used, while Lance Bouma is carrying a 53.28 Corsi-for at even strength this season. I certainly wouldn’t call this line a scoring line, but with DeBrincat on it, it’s also not a checking line. It feels like a line Q hopes can score a dirty goal, though that isn’t DeBrincat’s skill set.

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Regardless, I think putting Kero back in the lineup is a reasonable move. He hasn’t played since Oct. 19 against Edmonton, and though Kero is never going to be the answer to offensive woes, there’s no reason not to give him another look the way things are going.

However, I think Q got the scratch wrong. Lazerus said the scratch was likely coming down to either Hayden or Patrick Sharp. At least we can see Hayden on the ice. He isn’t scoring a ton (six points on the power of five assists), but Sharp has been invisible, even when put on the briefly reformed top line of Sharp-Jonathan ToewsPatrick Kane.

I think Sharp could’ve taken a seat tonight. The Canes are a quick, puck-possession strong team, and that’s going to play against Sharp in spades. Sharp also can’t handle the rigors of being part of a grinding line with Tommy Wingels and Ryan Hartman. I have no idea what that line is intended to do. But I’d know what a Hayden-Wingels-Hartman line should be doing.

Seabrook gets pushed down

So these defensive pairings. I mean, is Luc Snuggerud’s injury still lingering? Can we not get him up here for a look? (Yes, I realize the waiver situation that would entail with at least one guy, but it’s becoming clear the Blackhawks could afford to waive some of these role players.)

Duncan Keith and Cody Franson have looked fine together before, but they both pretty much want to do the same thing. Against a puck-possession team like Carolina, that could lead to some 2-on-1s if Keith and Franson aren’t cautious.

Jan Rutta gets the fun assignment of babysitting Gustav Forsling. Rutta was woefully out of position on the first goal against in Philadelphia, but he’s still been overall good of late, even when paired with Brent Seabrook.

And speaking of Seabs, he’s on the third pairing tonight. And he’s with Connor Murphy. Well then.

Remember how I said the Canes had some speed? Yeah, if Carolina coach Bill Peters gets his matchups right, there could be scorched earth around the Seabrook-Murphy pairing. That is a slow twosome with a rapidly declining veteran and a younger guy who knows his coach doesn’t trust him. Should work great.

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Situation in net

The Blackhawks have opted to start backup Anton Forsberg tonight, with Corey Crawford drawing in tomorrow against the surprising New Jersey Devils. I don’t know that this decision makes a ton of sense, though.

First, you tend to give the backup all the home starts he can get. The New Jersey game is at home. This one against Carolina is not.

Compounding the issue is Carolina is far and away the league’s top possession team at even strength, carrying a crazy 56.53 percent mark (almost two points better than runner-up Edmonton). Across all situations, the number ticks up to 56.70.

With the Canes having last change and strong possession stats, added to Chicago’s line and pairing conundrum, this means Forsberg is likely going to see a heavy workload. Meanwhile, Crow gets the cushy home start against a Devils team with the third-worst Corsi-for at all strengths and without the benefit of last change.

Again, this seems like Q trying to throw something at the wall, hoping the Blackhawks rally behind Forsberg before Crow just obliterates the Devils. Even in theory, that seems like begging to split games when you could have a better chance at four points.

On the other side

A fun storyline for this game will be all the former Blackhawks suiting up for the Canes.

The bottom three guys, I wouldn’t worry too much about. Dahlbeck is the team’s worst blueliner, Nordstrom is the team’s worst possession forward (though his 51.82 mark at evens would make many a player blush) and TVR … I don’t need to make my thoughts known on his play.

But the other three should be impactful tonight. Darling will start in net, no doubt fired up against his former team. Kruger is doing Kruger things, starting in the defensive zone and flipping the ice while not scoring. And Teravainen, despite a brief injury setback, has nine points in 14 games.

The one thing the Blackhawks can hope for is that Carolina’s struggles with finishing plays continue. Despite the Canes being very strong maintaining the puck, it hasn’t led to a lot of goals (2.71 per game). I’ve posited before that I believe this is because Carolina doesn’t have many proven finishers right now.

Darling has gotten a bit better of late after a rough start, but his numbers are still below average (.910/2.35). Also, the Canes are just 2-2-2 at home this season.

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I’m trying to find some positives here for Blackhawks fans, but given how the lineup looks and how the Blackhawks have sleepwalked through many games against Carolina in recent seasons, this could be yet another ugly outing. Let’s hope for the best.