Lost in the frenzy of the Blackhawks’ recent success, which is led by their four stars on the forward lines, is the play of Marcus Kruger, who has taken over the second line center duties over the course of the past couple of weeks.
The Hawks initially started with Patrick Kane manning the middle on that second unit, which was a nice fit for a while, but it wasn’t long before the staff figured out that Kane is much more dangerous playing to the right of Jonathan Toews.
Without a real big presence as a second line center, the Blackhawks turned to the rookie Kruger, who is in his first full season with the Blackhawks. This is a kid that they have liked for quite some time, and he’s brought some stability to a line that has greatly needed it at that spot.
Where Kruger is an upgrade is his defensive play. Kane was fantastic centering that second line from an offensive perspective, but Kruger brings that defensive mindedness to the line along with his all important hockey IQ.
It makes life really easy when you’re playing in between two of the best forwards in the NHL. Since joining the second line, Kruger has been sandwiched between Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa. He only has a couple of points, but both of his linemates are putting up points at a fantastic pace, while he’s showing that he’s capable of keeping up with them as well, even if it doesn’t show in the box score.
Aside from his duties on the second line, Kruger has also been a steady contributor on special teams. He’s a regular on the penalty kill, which has been much improved lately, and is also featured on the second power play unit.
In the case of Kruger, you would probably have to watch his actual play on the ice to find the success that he’s demonstrated since joining the second line. He’s not going to put up points, but with All Star players on either side of him, he really doesn’t need to.
It remains to be seen if Kruger is a permanent solution to the Hawks’ second line woes in the middle, but he’s brought some stability to the spot with his two-way play and looks to have a very bright future, as quietly as he might be doing it.