With the NHL season winding down and the playoff picture becoming clearer, the Chicago Blackhawks rearranged their lines searching for offensive consistency in the absence of Marian Hossa. Hossa, the team’s first line right wing, is invaluable and should return with around ten games remaining in the regular season.
When Hossa is not on the ice, Blackhawks Captain Jonathan Toews certainly acts less as a facilitator and more as a pure scorer. He evidenced this last night against the Columbus Blue Jackets as the Blackhawks routed the Eastern Conference playoff contenders. In between Andrew Shaw and Brandon Saad, the Blackhawks’ first line should not see a dramatic decrease in production.
Both Shaw and Saad have found themselves bounced between positions all season and have proved to produce excellent individual numbers regardless of position on the Blackhawks depth chart. The duo combined for three points on nine shots on goal last night.
Consistency tends to come from the top down, as it did once again last night. Bryan Bickell found his way back on the score-sheet, and Peter Regin continues to play well in a limited role. The Blackhawks’ fourth line was once again excellent with Marcus Kruger registering two assists and Brandon Bollig tallying a goal.
The Blackhawks are at their best when their first and fourth lines are consistently producing points. The rest is rather arbitrary. All that matters is that for one game at least, the Blackhawks got back to their formula.
Despite losing the giveaway-takeaway battle, the Blackhawks fired off 33 shots and maintained a consistent, smothering, puck possession offense. The tempo of the game was further enforced by the Blackhawks’ dominant 43-19 faceoff advantage which allowed them to play up to the standards they will need to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions, regardless of the lines.
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