After the first game of the series against the Golden Knights, you might think, “well, it’s only one game. The Blackhawks will get one back.” That might be true, but some players have been noticeably absent since the first game of the series against Edmonton.
The Chicago Blackhawks might need to make some changes, and the first place they should look is the third line.
If it had a nickname it could be “The Underperforming Line”.
All three of these players haven’t been inconsistent contributors since the NHL resumed play. However, one player stands out more than the others, Alexander Nylander. Nylander isn’t a meaningful contributor at all so far in the postseason, and it’s probably time he was benched.
For his last five games, which is the entire duration of the postseason, Nylander’s numbers are very underwhelming.
In Game 1 against the Golden Knights, he played 10:12, which was less ice time than every other forward. He was also credited with 2 shots-on-goal, 1 hit, 1 block, and 1 takeaway.
If these were his numbers in the first game back after the five-month hiatus, it would be understandable, but they aren’t.
The rest of his stats don’t look much different for this postseason.
The series against Edmonton was a mediocre outing for him, and Nylander had started the series lining up with Patrick Kane.
So far he has no points over five games and has been switched with Alex DeBrincat on the third line. DeBrincat is now playing on the second line with Patrick Kane and Kirby Dach.
After seeing the first game against Vegas, and how little impact the third line had, Nylander should be watching the game from the press box.
The question, who replaces him?
There are some options in Chicago’s 31-player roster. Dylan Sikura might be the first name to come to mind, but he might not be the best option against Vegas. The Golden Knights are a big heavy team, and SIkura isn’t a very intimidating presence physically.
John Quenneville has the most NHL experience, but he wasn’t very impressive against Edmonton.
The best options might be Brandon Hagel or MacKenzie Entwhistle.
Hagel had been called up to the NHL when the season was put on pause. He’s a scrappy player that works hard and plays a simple game.
Alternatively, MacKenzie Entwhistle is a big body at 6’4″, and 184 lbs (190cm, 83kg). Entwhistle doesn’t have any NHL experience, but seeing how Dach’s minutes have been managed, this postseason seems to be more about getting experience than chasing the Cup.
During the pre-season, Entwhistle made a strong case for himself to be a candidate for a call-up from Rockford.
If the Blackhawks aren’t worried about winning a championship, then why not give Entwhistle a chance?
Considering how the first game against Vegas went last night, Entwhistle might be a better choice. The team doesn’t need a wizard with the puck, they need a forward that can hold his own against the Golden Knights. Just with his size, Entwhistle could be a better option.
If Chicago felt like they wanted to make a change to the bottom-6, there are options.