The Chicago Blackhawks‘ offense finally got going with a 5-3 drubbing of the Edmonton Oilers tonight in front of their home crowd. In addition to the five goals, the Blackhawks put 41 pucks on net, and were able to win thanks to a total team performance.
Previously, Coach Joel Quenneville had switched three of the teams four lines, promoting Marcus Kruger to the team’s second line and demoting the struggling Andrew Shaw to the fourth line. Since December 14, Shaw had only registered a lone goal, despite showing consistent defense and grit.
Shaw re-entered the scoring sheet tonight with a second period goal and in between Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, just about anybody can be successful. Shaw plays a simple game centered around the dirty areas and should give both Kane and Saad plenty of room to work.
More importantly, Quenneville gets to reunite his fourth line, the checking line, which he likes to give difficult minutes. They started the game today, and led by Marcus Kruger, contributed to Ben Smith’s first-period goal.
The third line should continue to feature the Blackhawks’ struggling players, namely Michal Handzus and Bryan Bickell. The line saw less than nine minutes of game action tonight, and the Blackhawks proved better for it.
Looking back at Shaw, the question is whether he is sustainable within the top six. If tonight is any indication, the answer is a resounding yes. The team was actually thrown into many different situations today, with Shaw playing a poised, consistent game.
In the first period, the Blackhawks registered nine of their 15 hits including one credited to Shaw. Going into the second frame, the Blackhawks needed possession and offense. Shaw helped immensely, sending one of his four shots into the back of the net.
The third period played into Shaw’s strong suit, defense. The Blackhawks had a lead and needed it to remain that way. Although Taylor Hall notched a goal, Shaw’s defense and fundamentals make him a perfect fit in between Brandon Saad and Patrick Kane.
Despite being young, Andrew Shaw earned his chance in the top-six tonight with the same well-rounded play that got both him and his team out of a midseason slump. The eye test was passed tonight, but the real one is set to come Tuesday when the Blackhawks face the Colorado Avalanche.
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