Patrick Kane said he wouldn’t have minded if he and Artemi Panarin were split to start the season.
“I could understand why people would be up in arms one way or another about changing the line,” he said. “But I’ve played with pretty much everyone here except some of the younger guys that are coming up.”
Still, if ain’t broke...
So Kane, Panarin and Artem Anisimov are together again. So are Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa on the top line, where they’ll be with Richard Panik. The Blackhawks are loading up their top two lines heading into the season, which begins Wednesday night against the St. Louis Blues. And with so many young forwards with little to no NHL experience on the third and fourth lines, the onus is going to be on that top six.
It would be easy –— and for the Blackhawks, great — to think that the second line will immediately build off last year’s numbers. But Kane said throwing the three back together doesn’t mean the same results will automatically show.
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“I think for us it’s important not to just think it’ll happen again,” he said. “We have to do what we did last year: work hard, try to get the puck back and when we get the puck back, work our magic a little bit. The biggest thing is work, especially with us three.”
As much as the Blackhawks would love to see the second line repeat what it did last season, they’d like the top line to get back to where it was prior to last season. Panik, who played on the top line some late last season, gets the first crack at it as the Blackhawks try to avoid playing the turnstile-at-left-wing game again. But overall, that line has to produce more.
“It’ll be huge for us,” Toews said of his line scoring early this season. “But again, we just want to go play with energy, play with excitement, and have fun. We know those results are going to come. I think last year, it was maybe a rougher start and then we were kind of forcing it as the season went along. It got maybe even more mentally tiring as that burden got bigger and bigger as the season went along. The start’s important, but we know we’re excited about things. Just play good hockey.”
The Blackhawks are revamped again this season, especially at forward. They’ll need the young players to do their part. They’ll need their veterans to do even more.
“I know that as a young kid or a veteran guy, I think you’re looking to get off to a great start and know how important, how tough it is to make the playoffs, have success early on in the year,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We have a tough division, a tough conference. Both sides [young guys and veterans] have got to be looking to deliver their part and hold up their end of the bargain. I would say our guys have handled all situations extremely well. It seems like the bigger the challenge, the bigger game, they rise and they meet it head on.”