Blackhawks Find Their Third Line

We all know that Coach Quenneville loves to play line roulette, especially when the Blackhawks aren’t doing well. Through the first quarter or so of the season that was very evident, especially on the third line. There was seemingly a new group every night. It was as if no one on the team wanted to (or could) step forward. To add to the instability, Bryan Bickell was exiled in Rockford, Andrew Shaw was bouncing between the first, third and fourth lines, and the remaining forward was an experiment with Marko Dano and others all getting a turn.

Earning the Call Up

Well it seems that now the third line has found its groove. That line currently stands as Bryan Bickell, Dennis Rasmussen and Andrew Shaw. They have been extremely noticeable on the ice for the last few games since being put together. Let me offer a few reasons why. First, Bryan Bickell was recalled from Rockford on December 6th. His promotion was well-deserved. Bickell was originally sent down November 2nd in hopes he would rediscover his game and confidence. All he did there was register 14 points in twelve games (7G, 7A). Bickell adds checking strength and a big body to help disrupt things in and around the blue paint.

The Blackhawks then made another roster move, calling up Dennis Rasmussen from Rockford on December 7th. Ironically, Rasmussen also had tallied 14 points (7G, 7A) while playing for Rockford. Rasmussen brings both skill and grit, and is also a great two-way player. I would say his first game after being recalled was pretty memorable. In fact, Shaw seemed just as excited.

Shaw Gets it Together

Speaking of Shaw, the third piece to the third line puzzle was Andrew Shaw. I don’t know if it was playing on different lines, lack of chemistry with line-mates, or a nagging injury; but whatever it was, he certainly was consistently bringing that spunk and grit the Hawks and fans have grown to love. Perhaps he only needed to play the Predators. In the Hawks 4-1 win on December 8th, he clearly played like a man on a mission. Shaw tallied both the game winning goal and an assist. Then on December 10th the Hawks got crushed by the Predators, losing 5-1. However, Quenneville had this to say about Shaw after the game: “Shawzie was the one guy who left it out there. I liked what he did and what he brought.”

Third Line Success

The line played well again in a 2-0 win versus Winnipeg Friday night, and then really stepped up Sunday in a 4-0 win over Vancouver. With Vancouver pressing and only down 1-0 about half way through the third period, Shaw lead a rush dishing off nicely to Bickell, who then fired it glove side on Miller. Miller was not able to hold the shot. Just before the puck could cross the line, Rasmussen punched it in to make sure it would count.

Rasmussen was seen on the bench immediately after the goal apologizing to Bickell for stealing a goal, but Bickell didn’t care. The smile on his face said it all. Shaw later added an empty net goal to put the game out of reach. It’s no coincidence that the Hawks are playing really well of late as well. The hawks need scoring across all lines, and are at their best when they have net front presence to compliment the puck possession players.

Shaw, Rasmussen and Bickell are all Rockford IceHogs alums, and play the game taking nothing for granted. Perhaps that is the biggest key for their success. They know they need to continue to play hard, as it can all be taken away at any time. Everyone knows the danger of Anisimov, Panarin and Kane. Teams and fans have also seen the havoc that Teravainen, Toews and Hossa bring to opponents as the number one line. Now it appears the Hawks have found their third line as well. The Blackhawks finally are playing as a team with both finesse and grit. Their balance seems as good as ever, and they are on a roll.

That sound you hear is the rest of the league swallowing hard.