Last time we looked at Toews, Saad and Richard Panik were still cemented as Toews’ wingers. While Saad has basically not moved at all, there has been plenty of changes on the top lines right wing.
In the last 20 or so games, we have seen Panik, Patrick Sharp, Hayden, Alex DeBrincat and Vinnie Hinostroza all play on the top line. This turnover had a lot to do with a lack of production from the top line, as Toews and Saad combined for only 11 points in a 15-game stretch prior to New Year’s Eve.
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But out of nowhere (or, I guess, out of Rockford) comes Hinostroza, who has revitalized the top line over the last three games. Saad, Toews and Hinostroza have combined for 14 points over the last three games. On top of that, the three combined for a plus-48 Corsi over those three games.
What is really apparent right now is that Hinostroza’s speed and work ethic have helped revitalize the top line. In a small sample size, we have seen the top line keeping possession in the opponent’s zone longer, winning board battles and creating great scoring opportunities.
Sunday’s game against Edmonton saw the third and fourth goals of the contest both coming from strong work by the top line. The third goal was Toews working hard towards the net through two defenders before Saad was able to slap the puck through Cam Talbot’s five-hole.
The fourth goal was tough battles along the boards by Saad, Toews and Hinostroza, keeping the puck in for an extended period before Hinostroza was able to pop the puck out to Jordan Oesterle, who buried a wrister.
Currently, Saad is on pace for 46 points this season, which would be the lowest of his career in which he played a full season. But those numbers, like Toews’ as well, have started to increase with Hinostroza on the top line and will hopefully continue to improve in the coming weeks.
With the Blackhawks fighting to get back into a playoff spot and half the year already gone, the top line will need to be productive in the second 41 games of the season. Hopefully, Hinostroza is the piece the ‘Hawks were missing before and the team finally has a solution to the Toews’ line problems.