Brandon Saad

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Have Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad found their scoring mojo?

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Have Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad found their scoring mojo?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss the Blackhawks' first half of the season. Are the Blackhawks what their record says, a non-playoff team, or are they a playoff team that has under achieved?

The guys also weigh in on Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad’s resurgence and whether Anton Forsberg has proved that he should see a bulk of the time in net until Corey Crawford returns.

Plus, Burish gives us a scouting report on Jordan Oesterle, his biggest area of concern for the Blackhawks and he makes a bold prediction on the second half of the season.

What to make of revamped Blackhawks lines

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AP

What to make of revamped Blackhawks lines

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:

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.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks 4-1 win over Panthers: Much-needed offensive breakout for Jonathan Toews

Five takeaways from Blackhawks 4-1 win over Panthers: Much-needed offensive breakout for Jonathan Toews

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks’ 4-1 win over the Florida Panthers on Saturday night:
 
1. Another strong start.

The Blackhawks had arguably their best first period since Opening Night on Wednesday in Tampa Bay when they scored a pair of goals and killed off three penalties, but they topped that against the Panthers.

The Blackhawks registered 30 shot attempts (21 on goal), allowed only nine attempts (seven on goal) and led in the even-strength scoring chances department 13-4. White jerseys were flying everywhere.

John Hayden and Brandon Saad both buried their scoring chances at the doorstep, and helped the Blackhawks take a 2-0 lead into the second period.

Chicago now has 24 first-period goals this season, which ranks fourth in the league.

2. Saad-Toews-Panik line dominates.

Of the 30 shot attempts the Blackhawks compiled in the first period, the top line of Saad, Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik combined for more than half of them. In fact, the trio was on the ice for 19 shot attempts for and zero against in their first six shifts, all of which were at even strength.

Saad had seven of the team's 21 shots on goal in the period, which alone matched his season-high going into the matchup. The last Blackhawks player to record seven shots on goal in a period was Dustin Byfuglien on Feb. 6, 2008 against Edmonton.

Saad was rewarded with a goal, just his second in his last 16 games, when he slammed home a Toews pass. Saad also had an assist and finished with eight shots on goal.

3. Kaner's feeling it.

Look out, folks. Here comes the 2016 Hart Trophy winner.

Patrick Kane has four goals in his last five games, including three in his last two, after going seven straight games without one. With seemingly no room, Kane found a hole top shelf snapped a shot past Roberto Luongo's left shoulder to put the Blackhawks in front 3-1 less than six minutes after the Panthers had cut their lead in half 1:06 into the second period.

It really helped squash any type of momentum for the Panthers, who outshot the Blackhawks 19-10 in the middle frame.

Kane also extended his point streak to six games, where he has four assists to go along with his four goals over that span.

4. So is The Captain?

Both of the Blackhawks' top weapons are starting to heat up. One of them already has.

Toews got off to a hot start when he had six points (three goals, three assists) in his first six games, but slowed down after he accumulated only seven points (two goals, five assists) in his next 16.

Well, that changed Saturday when he tallied a goal and two assists for his first three-point outing of the season. His goal was fluky, but one that certainly took terrific hand-eye coordination.

Hey, you take them any way you can get them, especially during a drought. The Blackhawks improved to 4-1-1 when their captain scores a goal this season.

If he gets going offensively on a consistent basis, the rest of the lineup will too because it simply takes pressure off the other three lines. Toews sets the tone.

5. Fourth line stays reliable.

If there's one line that's been consistent throughout the majority of the season, it's the Blackhawks' fourth consisting of Lance Bouma, Tommy Wingels and Hayden. 

The trio turned in another solid effort, combining for eight shot attempts (seven on goal), three hits and also teamed up to score the game's first goal (Hayden, assisted by Bouma and Wingels), as mentioned above.

Bouma had another point, and increased in his point total to eight (one goal, seven assists) in seven career games against the Panthers.

It's got to be encouraging for Joel Quenneville that he can rely on his fourth line to play third-line minutes, and in any role, while he continues to tinker and figure out his top nine in an effort to get more consistency across the board. Although he hasn't gone to the blender much lately, which is a great sign because it means the Blackhawks are piling up wins.