Chicago Blackhawks Forward Depth Beginning to Pay Dividends
By Michael Wagner
This season, the Chicago Blackhawks have the luxury of forward depth and it has made a big difference.
To say the start to the season was a rough ride for the Chicago Blackhawks would be quite the understatement. However, over the last couple of weeks, it appears as though the Blackhawks have started to fill a lot of the holes in their game.
One of the biggest upturns in the Blackhawks game has been the consistent play of their forward group. Regular contributions are coming from every line, and of course, a dominant performance from Patrick Kane.
Much of the Chicago Blackhawks’ success can be attributed to the hot streak that the star winger finds himself in a seven game point streak with four of those games being multi-point games. Just like last season, when Kane carried the Blackhawks into playoff contention, it seems like that same player has emerged once again.
Patrick Kane already is producing at over a point-per-game clip with 23 points in 18 games. During the current upward trend he is on, we could see that point-per-game ratio only growing.
Much of Kane’s success can be attributed to his own personal drive to always be a factor in the game, but Jeremy Colliton has also gone back to the well on a lineup that was successful last season. We will touch on that next.
It took a while, but Colliton seems to have found a lineup that is working for them offensively. The super line of Kane, Alex Debrincat and Dylan Strome is back to their scoring ways. The Toews, Saad and Nylander line has been providing tons of scoring opportunities, and although we can’t be 100% pleased with his usage, Kirby Dach has done a ton with his limited minutes.
That doesn’t include Ryan Carpenter, who has been a great role player/penalty killer, Dominik Kubalik who has provided some pop at the bottom of the lineup and players like Andrew Shaw, Zack Smith, and Drake Caggiula who have brought a layer of grit they haven’t had for several years.
This balance between the high-flying skill and grit has been a tremendous combination over the Chicago Blackhawks’ recent productive stretch. Although Kane seems to be in on every offensive opportunity, it has been the contributions of all the depth players, as well as the overall lineup balance, which have allowed the offense to find its offensive groove as of late.
Youth and Experience
Dach, Nylander, and Kubalik are all in their first full NHL season. Although they are still developing, all have been put in places to aid their development. Although Dach is still playing 3rd, or even 4th line minutes, he has been given an opportunity on the power play to build his confidence as an offensive player.
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For Nylander, he is finally getting consistent time with two of the Blackhawks top two-way players in Toews and Saad, by doing so we have seen Nylander’s game grow. He has had much better game sense while still having the offensive flashes that can help make that line a productive one.
Finally, Kubalik has been in basically the same slot the entire season, playing the right wing on the third line. Although he has seen players come and go, keeping him in that specific spot in the lineup has solidified what his role is with this team and he is embracing it.
While the Chicago Blackhawks are still far from perfect, they seem to have the forward group that will continue to make this an interesting team in 2019-20. While not the best defensive team, they clearly have the depth up front to compete. Now, if the Blackhawks can continue to grow as a team, it isn’t far-fetched to see them become a true contender during the second half of the season.