Joel Quenneville didn't have to use his line blender in November after the Blackhawks finished the month with a 7-4-2 record, but he's been forced to revamp his four-line rotation after his team has lost a season-long four straight games and hasn't gotten timely scoring as of late.
Here's what the line rushes looked like during Tuesday's practice:
Not full line rushes but #Blackhawks were doing some drills with these combos:— Chris Boden (@BodenTweets) December 5, 2017
There's a lot to unpack here, so let's give it a go.
First and foremost, the top line has completely been dismantled, with Brandon Saad moving away from Jonathan Toews and onto the second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane, and Richard Panik swapping spots with John Hayden on the fourth line.
When Saad and Toews are on the ice together, they're controlling 55.9 percent of the even-strength shot attempts, which is above the team's overall average of 51.4, according to naturalstattrick.com. When they're apart, that number drops to 49.7 for Toews and 53.7 for Saad.
Clearly, The Captain is better with Saad on his wing, but they've combined for only five 5-on-5 goals over their last 24 games, so a change was needed. And it may not be a bad thing for the Blackhawks looking for an offensive spark.
In the 58:58 of even-strength ice time Kane and Saad have spent together this season, they're controlling 59.9 percent of the shot attempts. Add a player like Anisimov, who leads the team with 12 goals and can provide net-front presence, into the mix and that trio has the potential to present major problems for opponents.
But does it take away from the depth scoring elsewhere?
This is likely why Nick Schmaltz was moved to the third line, where he will play center in between Lance Bouma and Alex DeBrincat, while Patrick Sharp, Tommy Wingels and Panik round out the rotation.
Rather than loading up the top six with offensive firepower, Quenneville has dispersed his playmakers among the top nine for matchup/balancing purposes and in an effort to search for more consistency across the board.
The Blackhawks are running out of options and combinations, but we haven't seen a shake-up on all four lines like this one yet, so it'll be interesting to see how it all blends together and what the team's response will be.