The third lines of recent memory for the Chicago Blackhawks have always featured talent role players, and it appears this year’s iteration is no different. During the first five games of the season, Coach Joel Quenneville used the third line somewhat as a form of relegation, most recently demoting forward Bryan Bickell from the top line to the third despite his brand new contract.
That being said, Bickell quickly earned his way back onto the top line, leaving a position available going forward for someone to either earn or once again be relegated to. So far, Joakim Nordstrom has earned his new role. Despite being a center, Nordstrom has adapted well to playing wing at the NHL level. Though some thought his early struggles on the penalty kill may have doomed him, he has surged as a competent role player going forward.
Though his first five NHL games, Joakim Nordstrom has the same amount of points as the man that will be centering the third line, the gritty Andrew Shaw. Shaw hasn’t been filling up the stat sheet himself, but playing center and hopefully now having a stable unit should boost his production.
On the other side of the ice is someone who is hopefully poised for a big statistical season in Brandon Saad. The young Saad has not been slowed by his failed move to center earlier in camp and has made the most of his opportunity, proving he is a legitimate second line forward on a lot of teams.
With two goals and two assists to go along with no penalties and a +2 rating through five games, not much more can be expected out of the Pittsburgh native. Depending on the health of the forwards ahead of him including Marian Hossa, Saad could be promoted at any point if needed.
But for now, Saad will remain. As the third line ideally builds chemistry, the stats and ice time could be boosted significantly. There is certainly plenty of talent, and it will be great observing not only how much time they get together but how these talented young players play as a unit.
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