Rick Rischall Will kick things off.
Hello again, Kristi and faithful readers! Welcome back and we hope that you enjoy this edition of The Wrap Around.
As of this writing, the Blackhawks are still undefeated in the New Year and winners of 12 overall. That’s pretty good. Congratulations to this team regardless of the outcome Thursday against Tampa and Friday versus Florida. Hopefully, they’ll be at 14 in a row heading into Sunday night’s home game against rival St. Louis.
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) January 20, 2016
It is also worth noting that the Blackhawks have won 15 of their last 17 games dating back to December 19th. Not a bad month plus, no? But I believe the biggest reason for the Blackhawks outstanding play has been the balance of scoring and support from all four lines.
A big misconception is that Patrick Kane is carrying this team. I personally believe it is more like he is playing at an entirely ridiculous level. He is on pace for about 110 points and just tied his career high in goals with 30.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) January 20, 2016
Yep, Kane is having a monstrous year. But, the 2015-2016 Blackhawks team may be more balanced than any team in the Kane and Toews era. Don’t take my word for it, just consider some numbers courtesy of CSN Chicago.
- Three Players have at least six goals during the winning streak: Kane (9), Jonathan Toews (8), and Artemi Panarin (6).
- Andrew Desjardins has recorded five goals over the last twelve games.
- Fifteen different Blackhawks have scored at least one goal during the current twelve game win streak.
Then there is this quote from Corey Crawford after their win against Nashville on Tuesday.
“You can see the chemistry through all the lines, all the (defensive) pairings. We’re just playing the game right, playing with speed and skill and not making too many mistakes…”
Kristi, I would consider Crawford an expert on the streak, wouldn’t you? I mean he is sporting a 1.89 GAA during his nine games of the twelve in a row (Darling has other three wins).
Lastly for me at least, it looks like Coach Q is pushing all the right buttons. He seems to have found line combinations that work well, with Andrew Shaw up on the first line, and Rockford IceHogs call-ups Erik Gustafsson, Phillip Danault and Dennis Rasmussen are all doing very well. Especially considering Danault has Marcus Kruger’s skates to fill.
Heck, even newcomer Richard Panik has contributed two goals and one assist in just five games played. It sure looks like the full team is rolling right along to me.
But what do you think Kristi? Is this team really a one-line, or one player team?
These are all really good points Rick, and I absolutely agree with you!
Whose Line Is It Anyway?
I think the premise that this is a one line, or one player team couldn’t be more inaccurate. In fact, if you look at last year (which I think we would all agree ended pretty well), Patrick Kane was well on his way to this type of season before he was injured.
So, if this team is unbalanced, by rights last years team would have been even more so. They did not have a scoring winger on Kane’s line, or a center that was anywhere close to Artem Anisimov, and had it not been for his injury; Kane likely would have blown away Toews’ numbers as well.
I think this team is perhaps the best team that the Blackhawks have put together throughout their Cup runs, and that says a lot considering what they were forced to give up in the offseason. They essentially have two top lines, even some of their opponents aren’t sure whether to put Toews’ line at the top of the dance card, or Kane’s.
Board in the Preds dressing room has the Panarin-Anisimov-Kane line as the #Blackhawks' top line. Never seen Toews not listed as 1C before.
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) January 19, 2016
Yes, Kane, Anisimov, and Panarin have put up a lot of scoring, but Toews in on pace to at least match his numbers from last season. They are also currently getting scoring from all four lines which isn’t something that occurred with any regularity last season, or really any of the Cup seasons.
Hossa’s numbers have dipped a little, but you simply can’t undervalue the intangibles and compete level that he brings every night. Having Hossa in the lineup is a benefit to this team, and he has a funny way of getting hot when they need him the most.
For me, the big difference is that we are seeing increased production from Shaw on the top line that has led to scoring opportunities for his entire line. Shaw is no Brandon Saad, but Panarin and Anisimov more than make up for the scoring he contributed and cover Kris Versteeg and Brad Richards while they’re at it.
Blackhawks Depth Charge
In addition, you have several role players that are contributing as well.
A great example being the game in Nashville on Tuesday where we saw the third line looking like they were ready to strike all night. In fact, they may have been the most consistently dangerous line of the night for the Blackhawks. Sadly, they only had Desjardins empty netter to show for it, but they were there with the pressure every shift. Also, there are not a whole lot of teams that can roll out a player like Teuvo Teravainen on their third line.
Teuvo Teravainen vs Ryan Garbutt.
Nice defense from Teuvo.
Nice numbers for Garbutt in limited minutes. pic.twitter.com/1FR79jha1A
— Blackhawks Breakdown (@HawksBreakdown) January 18, 2016
Rick, I would also wholeheartedly agree with you on Quenneville. Essentially, each year he has had to play ‘pick up sticks’ with the lineup. There aren’t too many coaches that can literally lose a third of their roster only to cobble together a new version of the team, let alone find the kind of results that Q has.
In fact, I’d say if Stan Bowman and Coach Q aren’t part of the conversation for the GM of the year award and Jack Adams Award (Coach of the Year), I would be shocked.
At the end of the day, there is always going to be one line that may outperform others throughout the course of the season, but in general, that is to be expected. They don’t call them scoring lines for nothing.
In my opinion, if the top two lines are scoring as they have been lately, and they are getting some contributions for the bottom six, and the backend there is little cause for concern. And certainly with Crawford (and Darling) backstopping the way that he has been all season doesn’t hurt anything.
I think the main concern would be fatigue, and we all know that Quenneville is a master at getting his players the rest that they need in preparation for a deep playoff run, and this team is going to get there. Whether or not they can accomplish what many believe is impossible with a repeat of last year remains to be seen, but I don’t think there is a coach, GM, or player that is going to count the Blackhawks out.