It sounds odd to suggest that stubbornness from Joel Quenneville is costing the Chicago Blackhawks games, given the coach’s well-known affinity for quickly abandoning previous line combinations if the team isn’t playing well. The line shuffling was on display again in Game 3 against the Los Angeles Kings as expected, but this time for a much more preventable reason than usual.
Andrew Shaw‘s return to the lineup in Game 3 saw Peter Regin swapped out for him in a move that made little sense. Quenneville chose to play the functionless Brandon Bollig over Regin which was a senseless blunder. If the Blackhawks are to beat the Kings, it will be with their speed — something Bollig certainly doesn’t have.
The Bollig decision looks even more bizarre when one considers that Quenneville appears to fully realize how useless he is on the ice. Bollig played just five and a half minutes in the game, and his last shift came with six minutes remaining in the second period. The million dollar question: If you’re aware that Bollig doesn’t add anything of value on the ice, why in the world is he in the lineup?
Even more egregious than the Bollig disaster is Quenneville’s insistence on slotting the offensively anemic Michal Handzus into a role alongside Patrick Kane on a scoring line. At this point of his career, Handzus is a dreadful 5-on-5 player. His lead-footed stride leaves him behind his teammates on the rush all day long, and his overall lack of agility hurts his game in the defensive zone as well. Handzus was directly responsible for the Kings’ first two goals in Game 3, taking a ridiculously silly penalty that led to the first goal and failing to prevent a very stoppable pass from getting to Jeff Carter on the second goal.
Further, no player in the NHL shuts down Kane as thoroughly as Handzus. Kane didn’t score an even-strength goal with Handzus as his center until the last few games of his shortened regular season, after the two had played more than 300 minutes together.
It has never been a secret that Quenneville plays favorites with veterans. Blackhawks fans will remember Matt Walker from 2009 and Andrew Brunette from 2011; similar scenarios unfolded with those two, who were all but useless on the ice but nevertheless were fed constant ice time from Quenneville.
Handzus must be taken off the second line, and Bollig shouldn’t sniff the lineup again. Quenneville needs to take charge. He was the biggest reason for Chicago’s loss in Game 3.