World Championships Could Lead to Future Blackhawks Success

Team USA wrapped up its preliminary round action at the 2018 IIHF World Championship this morning. They will head into the elimination round with a record of 4-1-2 after a 6-2 loss to Finland, who won Group B over the United States with the victory. More importantly for Chicago Blackhawks fans, there could be some chemistry blooming which may help them in the long-term.

Patrick Kane’s Production Dipped Without Artemi Panarin

When general manager Stan Bowman traded Artemi Panarin to the Columbus Blue Jackets in a deal that brought Brandon Saad back to Chicago, many felt that Panarin would struggle without Patrick Kane on his line.  The exact opposite turned out to be true, at least for one season.

Panarin formed one of the most dangerous lines in hockey along with Kane and Artem Anisimov during his two seasons with the Blackhawks. With the Blue Jackets this season, after a slow month of January that saw him pick up just three goals and seven points, Panarin put up Hart Trophy-worthy numbers over the last nine weeks of the season. He scored 14 goals and 41 points over the final 31 games of the season to finish the season with 27 goals and a career-high 82 points, which broke Rick Nash’s franchise record for the most points in a single season.

“It’s a little bit different,” Kane told the Chicago Sun-Times back in March. “With those two seasons, obviously, I had chemistry with a player like I never had chemistry with anyone before. That player’s gone now, and you’re trying to build it up with other players. Sometimes, you think it’s there, and other times, it’s a work in progress.”

Patrick Kane
Patrick Kane (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Kane’s comments were spot on. During Panarin’s two seasons with the Blackhawks, he played a total 2001:20 of ice time with Kane at 5-on-5 where they were a plus-297 in Corsi, had a 54.01 Corsi-for percentage (CF%), a 101.7 PDO and were on the ice for 102 goals for opposed to 80 goals against.

Kane was unable to find anywhere near that kind of success during the 2017-18 season. There were times when he and Nick Schmaltz had great chemistry on the ice, but it was never with the consistency of production we saw the two previous seasons.

World Championships Showing Kane May Have a New Partner in Crime

Patrick Kane has been in enjoying himself during the preliminary round at the IIHF World Championships. Through seven games, Kane has six goals and 17 points.  He is tied for first in points with Sebastian Aho of the Carolina Hurricanes and leads all players with 11 assists.

For three straight games, head coach Jeff Blashill put Kane and Alex DeBrincat on the top line together. Team USA won all three of those games while Kane had a goal and five assists and DeBrincat scored his only goal of the tournament so far and picked up a pair of assists.

Many fans wanted to see a line of DeBrincat, Kane and Schmaltz last season. Head coach Joel Quenneville teased us a bit with it during the preseason, but we rarely saw them together during the regular season. The trio spent a grand total of just 34:27 of 5-on-5 together, posting a 55.71 CF%, and they were on the ice for one goal for and two against.

DeBrincat and Kane had a combined a 55.03 CF% in the 88 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time they had together last season. They were on the ice for four Blackhawks goals and eight against. Obviously, this line would not be very good defensively, but they would be very exciting in their own zone.

Schmaltz may not be the ideal center for DeBrincat and Kane until he becomes more consistent winning faceoffs. However, if these three show some chemistry early and can produce goals, the Blackhawks can deal with the defensive inefficiencies if they have a healthy Corey Crawford in goal. At the very least, this line should be given a look for more than just 34 minutes next season, especially with a coach and general manager needing results for their job security!