Richard Panik

Three Things to Watch: Alex DeBrincat moves up to top line tonight vs. Predators

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Three Things to Watch: Alex DeBrincat moves up to top line tonight vs. Predators

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

1. Let's go line dancing. Joel Quenneville is a habitual line tinkerer, and on Friday, we'll get our first glimpse at the new Blackhawks' forward groupings. Although the shakeup hits all four lines, the most interesting switch comes at the top, where rookie Alex DeBrincat gets his chance to play alongside Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad. The 19-year-old has only one goal in the team's first 10 games, but maybe he, and the offense, will get a jump-start from the changes. 

Patrick Kane and Nick Schmaltz welcome Richard Panik to the second line, keeping an edge of physicality in the fold. Panik is already tied for fourth on the team with eight points, so it will be intriguing to see how he adds to what is usually the Hawks best offensive line. 

2. Gotta be special. The Preds have some of the best special teams in the NHL, ranking sixth on the power play and fifth on the penalty kill. Sources say that's pretty good, and the Blackhawks would be wise to stay out of the penalty box. 

It seems rather unlikely that the Hawks' 20th-ranked power play will snap out of its funk against the astute Preds' kill, but strange things seem to happen when these two teams square off... 

3. Sweet smell of revenge (kinda). Winning a regular season game in October doesn't quite equate to sweeping a playoff series, but the Hawks' overtime win in Nashville a few weeks back was a positive step on the revenge ladder. 

Expect the Hawks to be skating with a little extra juice come 7:30 p.m., when they hit the ice to try and wipe away bad memories from home fans' minds. 

 

Joel Quenneville's latest line changes: Will they jump-start low-scoring Blackhawks?

Joel Quenneville's latest line changes: Will they jump-start low-scoring Blackhawks?

The Blackhawks’ unveiled their latest forward lines on Thursday, the response to the team struggling to find the same offense they had in their first two games of the season.

“I think we can be better with the puck, more comfortable with it,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “That way you can have the puck in the offensive zone instead of defending it on more shifts than we’d like. But we’ll see.”

And that’s really the point here. Whether the Blackhawks move players up and down the lines, keep lines the same for a while or switch them constantly, the way they play is ultimately what has to improve.

For grins, let’s look at a few of the notable changes:

— Alex DeBrincat gets a chance with the top line, joining Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews. He’ll still be on the right side — keep in mind DeBrincat played on the left side during most of his time in the Ontario Hockey League.

“On the left I can open up for a one-timer right away. On the right I just gotta find space in the middle and try to have a quick release. That’s the biggest difference,” DeBrincat said.

— Richard Panik moves to the second line with Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane, so the line keeps a heavy hitter/net-driving player presence.

— John Hayden moves up to the third line, while Ryan Hartman goes to the fourth line. Breaking up the fourth line, arguably the Blackhawks’ best the last two games, is interesting. But Hayden has been strong from the start of the season and deserves a bump up. Is Hartman getting demoted for recent penalties? Hartman has five minors through the first 10 games this season; last season he had five minors in his first 33 games.

“With him, that’s an ongoing challenge, knowing the balance, the attention with the referees and the way the game’s being called,” Quenneville said. “You gotta be aware, and I think he knows the limitations and boundaries and scrutiny.”

But back to the Blackhawks’ overall game. From puck possession to zone time to shot opportunities, the Blackhawks aren’t getting enough. So no matter how things stack up among the lines, their usual strong suits have to return.

“We definitely need to switch up. Fresh ideas can be good. But to me, playing in the offensive zone, being relentless on the puck, bringing the puck to the net, (we have to) do all the little things better and score ugly goals,” Artem Anisimov said. “If you can make a play, make the play. If you have a lane to the net, bring the puck to the net.”

The Blackhawks gave these lines a solid chance. The changes could help stoke the offense, but no matter how you arrange the personnel, the Blackhawks have to get back to the game that’s always worked for them.

“We haven’t generated much 5-on-5,” Quenneville said. “We’d like to have some predictability for longer stretches but on a need basis, sometimes change can be good.”

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 4-2 win over Coyotes: Puck don't lie

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 4-2 win over Coyotes: Puck don't lie

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night:
 
1. Surviving a crazy first period.

The Blackhawks committed four penalties in the opening frame within a 2:18 span, and escaped unscathed from it despite a pair of 5-on-3 opportunities for the Coyotes.

Of course, the only goal allowed in the period came from a fluke deflection off Jordan Oesterle's stick and slipped underneath Corey Crawford's five-hole.

Joel Quenneville likes to say the team that takes advantage of their 5-on-3 opportunities has a pretty good chance to win the game. It applied in this case, with the Blackhawks coming out victorious after surviving that stretch.

2. Power play comes alive early.

The Blackhawks got off on the right foot in an area that has been an issue for them this season, capitalizing on their first power play of the game 24 seconds into it when Richard Panik redirected a Jonathan Toews shot that tricked past Louis Domingue.

Good thing too, because it was the only man advantage they'd get. Well, excluding the power play they received with 17 seconds left in regulation when the game was already decided. 
 
3. Another controversial review in Arizona.

What's with it with controversial reviews in Arizona and the Blackhawks being on the wrong end of the call?

The Blackhawks appeared to have taken a 3-1 lead when Tommy Wingels converted on a penalty shot, but it was overturned after officials reviewed it and determined the Coyotes netminder got a stick on Wingels' initial shot. Replays didn't exactly show conclusive evidence, but the NHL released a statement proving otherwise:

Video review determined that Wingels shot the puck into the net after Arizona goaltender Louis Domingue made contact with the puck. According to Rule 24.2, "No goal can be scored on a rebound of any kind."

Shortly after, the Coyotes scored in the final minutes of the period to even up the score at 2-2 in a big turn of events at the time.
 
4. ... But puck don't lie.

The overturned penalty shot didn't matter in the end though, because the Blackhawks came away with the victory and Wingels ended up getting his first goal after all on an empty netter that iced the game.

It was Wingels' first goal as a member of his hometown team, and it was well deserved for a guy who was part of the fourth line that turned in arguably their best performance of the season.
 
5. Lance Bouma rewarded with game-winning goal.

Speaking of which, it was fitting that Bouma scored the game winner with 4:24 left in the third period because that trio of Bouma, Wingels and John Hayden was around the net for the majority of the night.

They combined for two goals and two assists, had eight attempts shot attempts (five on goal), eight of the team's 16 hits and four blocked shots.