(No) change is good: Hawks’ second line a model of consistency


(No) change is good: Hawks’ second line a model of consistency

Patrick Kane isn’t used to this.

The Blackhawks right wing has seen the same two line mates, Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin, for all but two or three games this season. For a player who has worked with plenty of different line mates – especially centers – during his time with the Blackhawks, this line stability is nice.

“It’s been pretty different,” Kane said. “The last few years, especially, I got into a rhythm where you’re playing with pretty much every forward throughout the game. To have two line mates you’re playing with consistently is definitely something I haven’t been used to, but it’s been good.”

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There’s been plenty of talk about the Blackhawks’ second line this season, and for good reason: even in the few games it hasn’t produced any points it’s been a threat to do so, so breaking it up has pretty much been out of the question. That’s been good for the line as a group and especially Kane.

The statistics speak for themselves, from the team’s overall record to that line’s numbers to Kane’s individual marks this season. Sure, there are some special-teams points in there but overall, Kane has a career-high 32 goals this season. He’s just 14 shy from tying a career marks in assists (58) and 12 shy of a career high in points (88), both set in 2009-10.

That line’s consistency means coach Joel Quenneville hasn’t had to worry much about that combination.

“They’re the longest tenure of a line being together. I think we’ve had a lot of guys in and out with certain guys, two together have formed a line and one guy seems to be in and out on occasion, but that’s been the most consistent group we’ve had together,” Quenneville said. “They’ve been extremely successful. Everybody is doing [his] own thing in different ways but together it’s been a great thing for our team.”

So why does it work? For starters, Kane and Panarin are similar: crafty, shifty and able to beat opposing goaltenders in so many ways. The two clicked from the start. As Panarin recently said, through his interpreter Stan Stiopkin, “from the first game we already got together really well. It’s a natural chemistry. We have the same style, good chemistry.”

But you also need stability on a creative line, and that’s where Anisimov has been critical. The big center, who had a four-point night in the Blackhawks’ 5-1 victory over the Dallas Stars on Saturday night, has been great at providing a net-front presence and winning puck battles, allowing Kane and Panarin to play their games.

“I think he’s the perfect player to play with those two guys, Kaner and Bread Man: big body, responsible with the puck and at the same time, he’s a skilled player that can play a skilled game with those two guys,” Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “It’s fun to be on the ice with those three guys and [Anisimov] has been a perfect match for us.”

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Compared to Kane, Anisimov is on the other side of the line-familiarity spectrum. This is at least the third time in his career Anisimov has had consistent line mates. He said he, Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan played together for about half a season when the three were New York Rangers. During the 2012-13 lockout, when he played with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv, Anisimov was part of a successful line with Emil Galinov and Sergei Plotnikov.

So, are there any similarities between those lines and Anisimov’s current one?

“They all play different hockey. It’s hard to compare,” Anisimov said. “With these two guys, there’s so much fun. We play fun hockey.”

The Blackhawks’ second line has been fun to watch this season. It’s worked because it has the perfect blend of style and substance. That line stability has been beneficial to Kane and to the Blackhawks.

“It’s been nice to play with the same guys and get that chemistry and every time you go on the ice you know what to expect,” Kane said. “They’re a big reason for our team and my individual success.”

Capitals' Devante Smith-Pelly speaks out about 'racially charged chanting' at United Center

Capitals' Devante Smith-Pelly speaks out about 'racially charged chanting' at United Center

After being on the receiving end of some racist taunts while he was in the penalty box during Saturday's game against the Blackhawks, Capitals winger Devante Smith-Pelly spoke publicly about the incident.

Smith-Pelly, a 25-year-old Canadian, reacted to the fans while he was in the box, going up to them from the other side of the glass. He addressed questions from the media about the incident on Sunday.

"I just heard some chanting, some, I guess, racially charged chanting," Smith-Pelly said. "You can tell by my reaction that I got pretty upset.

"What was said this time around crossed the line."

The Capitals released a statement about the incident:

"The Washington Capitals are extremely disappointed by the intolerant behavior extended toward Devante Smith-Pelly by a select group of fans during Saturday night's game against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. The Capitals organization strives to be inclusive and has zero tolerance concerning any form of racism. Such behavior is unacceptable and has no place in hockey or society. As such, it is crucial to confront such appalling conduct, and the Capitals extend their appreciation to the Blackhawks organization and United Center security for swiftly removing the fans from the game."

The Blackhawks released a statement after the game with a similar tone.

Smith-Pelly said this has happened previously in his career.

"It's sad that in 2018 we're still talking about the same thing over and over," Smith-Pelly said. "It's sad that athletes like myself 30, 40 years ago were standing in the same spot saying the same thing. You'd think there'd be some sort of change or progression, but we're still working towards it I guess and we're going to keep working towards it."

The Capitals released the full interview.

Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals


Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals

Four fans at the United Center were thrown out of Saturday's Blackhawks game for taunting Washington Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly with racist remarks.

Midway through the third period, Smith-Pelly, who is black, was in the penalty box when fans shouted "basketball, basketball, basketball" at him, the Washington Post reported.

Here is a GIF of Smith-Pelly's interaction with the fans:

After the game, the Blackhawks released this statement:

Capitals head coach Barry Trotz also had this to say about the incident: