Fourth line bringing necessary energy to Blackhawks


Fourth line bringing necessary energy to Blackhawks

There are a few things the Blackhawks have had in recent years that they’d like to have again.

Balanced 5-on-5 scoring, sure. They’re getting there. Another thing is that four-line rotation. It’s been there in the past, and that’s included that fourth line. And while it’s taken a while for the Blackhawks to find the right chemistry on all but one of their lines this season, it looks like they may be onto something now with their fourth trio.

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Andrew Desjardins, Marcus Kruger and Ryan Garbutt may be the fourth-line combination the Blackhawks have been looking for again. No, they’re not the three guys you look to for goals, although connecting on a few of those chances is encouraged – Desjardins and Garbutt have a goal each this season while Kruger was denied what could have been his first on Sunday. But the Blackhawks’ past fourth lines have done well in spending time creating offensively as they have playing defensively. So far this season, these three have done it best.

“I thought that line had its most effective game all year long,” coach Joel Quenneville said of the line’s game vs. Winnipeg on Sunday. “They generated some chances, had one taken away but some real high quality. But the thing we liked best was the zone time they had, the puck possession and thesupport they had around the puck and relentlessly pursuing it when they didn’t happen. That was more representative of what we saw the last few years. If we get that predictability from that group, now all of a sudden we’re looking like a four-line rotation team.”

Desjardins, Kruger and Garbutt were together earlier this season but be it the chemistry not clicking immediately or the Blackhawks trying to figure out what worked best for other lines – especially that first one – they were separated. Quenneville put them back together heading into Sunday’s game and the group was noticeable.

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“It’s been nice being reunited with them, the two guys I was thinking I’d play with when I got here,” Garbutt said. “They play the game really hard. They’re tenacious, get the pucks in the offensive zone and play well defensively and Krugs is really good on face-offs. So definitely enjoying my time playing with them.”

The fourth line is getting solid minutes again. They’re working well on both sides of the ice again. And if this continues the Blackhawks have abetter shot at being that successful four-line team again.

“I think we just read off each other well, fed off each other well, kept it simple,” Desjardins said. “We talked about it before the game: you get success when you work as three and do those things and I think we have something to prove to ourselves as well. I can’t speak for them, but I’m sure they’d be in the same boat; we want to be more of an influence in games. It was the case where we fed off each other and worked.”

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'


Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?