Chicago Blackhawks Roundtable: First Line And Goaltender Starts

By Colin Likas
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 27: Richard Panik
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 27: Richard Panik /
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CHICAGO, IL – SEPTEMBER 23: Jean-Francois Berube
CHICAGO, IL – SEPTEMBER 23: Jean-Francois Berube /

Steve Yatsushiro

Question 1: The top line has been struggling with Richard Panik at right wing. He was my concern at the start of the season as not being a skilled playmaker. His fast start out of the gate quelled some of those fears, but he has regressed back to being the streaky kind of player he has been in the past. And right now he is stone cold.

As Alex DeBrincat has developed nicely on the third line, it is time to test him against higher quality of competition on the top line to provide skilled playmaking and sniping ability.

While Panik seems to get in the way of his linemates, DeBrincat has that instinct to get into the open areas of the ice for high percentage scoring opportunities. He’s also displayed high-end playmaking skills.

He could be just the spark that Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews need to jumpstart that top line. A demotion of Panik to the third line could help him get his confidence back while playing against a lower quality of competition.

Question 2: Anton Forsberg has shown that he can manage the net as a capable backup goalie. As the ‘Hawks continue to play high-event hockey, Forsberg was tested against Dallas and Los Angeles with several high-quality chances. He made some tremendous saves that only a better-than-average NHL goalie can make.

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He’s just not very good in the shootout. So, I think Quenneville should continue to ride Forsberg as his starter and allow him to develop further as an NHL goalie. If he had struggled in the past two games, I would go with the approach of “win to keep the net” and find out what J.F. Berube can do. But it looks like Berube will just have to wait for his chance.