Chicago Blackhawks new coach Jeremy Colliton is slowly making changes to the team as he becomes more comfortable. The most recent one we’ve seen is a major lineup shift ahead of tonight’s game. Here’s a look into it.
At the Chicago Blackhawks morning skate ahead of Monday night’s road matchup against the Carolina Hurricanes, coach Jeremy Colliton made some major changes to the Blackhawks lineup. Here’s what he went with this morning and, presumably, what we’ll see during tonight’s game.
Before you see them, it’s worth noting that Marcus Kruger is out with a leg injury and that Brandon Saad did not participate in the morning skate and will be a game time decision. Regardless, here’s what the ‘Hawks ran in practice today as well as an in-depth look into all off them.
Line 1: Schmaltz-Toews-Kane
First and foremost, I am fully in support of Patrick Kane and Nick Schmaltz playing on the same line. That said, Schmaltz benefits when he plays in a bottom-six role because he needs to be used as a first scoring option on that line. Too often does he defer to other players in scoring situations, so ultimately those minutes help him.
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However, if this team wants to be successful, they need Schmaltz skating with Kane in top-six minutes. Though he’s your “no. 1 center of the future,” I’m still comfortable with him skating on a wing occasionally so long as the opposite wing belongs to Patrick Kane.
DeBrincat-Toews-Kahun hasn’t had much success since their red hot start to the season, so it makes sense that Colliton is shaking up his first line.
That said, Toews has a history of benefiting from playing next to true snipers (see Patrick Sharp for example). As a result, this helps to explain why Alex DeBrincat and Jonathan Toews have had success to start the year. If DeBrincat were swapped with Schmaltz in this situation, I wouldn’t necessarily hate it.
What bothers me the most, though, is that Jonathan Toews is centering this line next to Patrick Kane. Mark Lazerus of The Athletic quickly summarizes the statistics behind how the team fares with Kane/Toews together versus apart, saying:
"“In the past five-plus seasons, Kane and Toews have played about 1,113 minutes of 5-on-5 time together (per Natural Stat Trick). The Blackhawks have been outscored 60-56 in those minutes. When Toews is without Kane during those same seasons, his line has outscored opponents 211-150. When Kane is without Toews, his line has outscored opponents 246-193.”"
The numbers surely favor Kane and Toews playing apart as they seem to be more effective when playing their own games. Regardless, I like them apart this season especially for another reason.
Though his production has slowed a bit since the first six games, Jonathan Toews is having a significantly better year this year. The top line is one that opposing teams actually have to worry about defensively. Likewise, Kane’s line will always be dangerous no matter who is skating with him.
If they’re together, opposing teams only have one line to chose to defend. If they’re separated, though, not only is their lineup more balanced but coaches must pick and choose who to send their top defensive units out against which undoubtedly plays into the ‘Hawks’ favor.