As has been the case for the vast majority of the 2013-14 season, the Chicago Blackhawks‘ fourth line of Ben Smith, Marcus Kruger and Brandon Bollig was fantastic once again (albeit in a losing effort) against the Colorado Avalanche. The loss leaves Chicago only one point up on Colorado in the standings with the Avalanche having a game in hand.
Smith continued Chicago’s recent trend of pretty goals, curling off the left wing boards to fire a short-side shot by Semyon Varlamov. It’s been a remarkably productive season for Smith, as he has now compiled 8 goals and 11 assists while being deployed primarily in a defensive role and getting no power play time. The goal was still another showing of impressive offensive skill from Smith, who broke onto the NHL scene with several key goals in the spring of 2011 in a playoff series against the Vancouver Canucks.
Kruger and Bollig were also strong against Colorado, continuing to work a strong cycle game on offense while also providing effective play in their own zone. The leap forward in Bollig’s game this season has been admirable; he has certainly joined the proverbial “enforcers who can actually play hockey as well” category, and is one of Chicago’s few consistently physical players.
Generally speaking, offense from a fourth line is considered a luxury. Something surprising, something unexpected.
In Chicago, it has become the norm, and will perhaps even become a necessity if the Blackhawks are to win consistently with Marian Hossa out of the lineup for the next few weeks.