The home opener is one the Chicago Blackhawks hope they can forget quickly with poor puck control, shaky defense, and sub-par special teams.
One shining light, however, was the play of the Chicago Blackhawks’ third line which was composed of Brandon Saad, David Kampf, and Dominik Kubalik, with the latter of the three netting his first career NHL goal. What was so great about that line in particular?
The biggest take away from the third line was their combination of skill, speed, and overall aggressiveness every time they touched the puck. This was a group that had a large share of the offensive opportunities early on with Saad, Kubalik, and Kampf all having scoring chances against the San Jose Sharks’ Aaron Dell.
Kubalik would be the main beneficiary of the early pressure the third line was able to provide, as he was able to net his first career NHL goal. The goal was a result of Kampf’s persistence in front of the net and an unintentional pass from Saad that Kubalik did not hesitate with. This type of pressure would continue throughout the first period and it was evident that this line was the most active and effective to start the game.
However, with the back and forth nature of the game, coach Jeremy Colliton looked to change things up during the second period. He would promote Kubalik to the top line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
This move would not bear fruit for the Blackhawks, as it neutered the third line and didn’t provide much spark to the lineup as a whole. Much of this likely has to do with the inexperience with different linemates and overall poor control of the puck over the final 40 minutes of the game.
While that third line was dominant in creating scoring chances, there was still one major flaw with the group, David Kampf’s ineffectiveness as a center at the faceoff dot. As Ben Pope of the Chicago Sun-Times points out below, Kampf’s faceoff skill was far below what the Blackhawks were getting out of their other three centers, and if he does remain the center on this line, he will have to improve.
With the juggling of the lines in the home opener, it was expected that heading into practice on Friday, we would get a revamped lineup similar to what we saw towards the end of the game against the Sharks. We did get some interesting changes, but more surprisingly, Colliton decided to stick with what was working at the start of the Sharks game, the third line.
Personally, I was shocked to see this as I had grown accustomed to the Joel Quenneville style of line-blending in that if it isn’t working, change everything. For Colliton, though, it looks like he really liked what he has seen out of the Saad-Kampf-Kubalik group. If they can somehow improve Kampf’s face-off ability, or possibly upgrade the third line center position, in general, the Blackhawks have an extremely potent line on their hands.
While the rest of the lineup looks to have much uncertainty just two games into the season, Chicago Blackhawks fans can rest easily knowing they already have a stud third line and one that can also continue to improve throughout the season.