Blackhawks

Blackhawks’ third line chipping in with defense, goals

Blackhawks’ third line chipping in with defense, goals

When trying to find a checking line, defense comes first.

The players on that line have to be responsible, they have to win some faceoffs and if they generate some offense along the way, even better. And after tinkering with some combinations, it looks as if the Blackhawks have found their checking line.

Dennis Rasmussen, Marcus Kruger and Richard Panik seemed like a good group even from the start: some defensive responsibility for what’s usually the Blackhawks’ checking line, plus a forward who went on a scoring streak to start the season. Together a few weeks now, the Blackhawks may have finally found their third-line combination.

Rasmussen, Kruger and Panik have given the Blackhawks good defense and a few goals here and there, and have been a good part of the team’s current winning streak. For coach Joel Quenneville, the line combines the best elements, especially defensively.

“They’re responsible in ways,” he said. “You have two guys who can take faceoffs. We use them in our own end a lot. Sometimes we’ve been matching them up against top lines and so they get some assignments as well and if they can outscore that group it’s a real plus for us. But they spend some zone time, they get good cycles shifts and they’ve all been managing the puck well. It’s an area where there’s some improvement in our game. I think that line has been leading the charge as far as possession and down low in the offensive zone.”

And of course, it’s all about what you can add on the scoresheet. Rasmussen has two goals in his last five games. Panik has two in his last four, including the game-winner against the New York Islanders. Still, the two-way game is important, be it for an individual or for a line. So why has it worked so well between the three?

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!] 

“I think [we’re] just trying to make simple plays. We kind of find a chemistry and I think that’s good,” Panik said. “We have big bodies, so we’re using the corners and kind of trying to manage the puck in the [offensive] zone.”

Kruger said, “I think we try to do a little bit of everything and be responsible in our own end. Both of those guys [Panik and Rasmussen] are big guys who can hold onto the puck and play down low, too. That’s probably the best way to defend, playing in their own end. we’ve been getting some offense, too, which is nice.”

Rasmussen, especially, was frustrated at missing on chances he’s had recently. He’s feeling a lot better about his overall game now that he’s added some offense.

“If you score goals then you know you did something good out there. That’s kind of helps with the confidence and everything like that,” Rasmussen said. “Of course, it means a lot.”

Then there’s the communication.

“All of us think the game similar. Rasmussen and me and Panik really try to talk in between shifts, what we can do better, stuff like that,” Kruger said. “If they’re doing something we can adjust to, we try to talk about that. We’ve just been playing with some patience and trying to play the right way.”

Will the three remain together these last few games of December? The Blackhawks could be down a forward or two heading into Friday night – Marian Hossa and Artem Anisimov are both dealing with upper-body injuries. Even if Quenneville splits them to help the injury situation, he can return to a pretty reliable checking-line trio in the future.

Hawks Talk Podcast: 1-on-1 with Blackhawks No. 3 overall pick Kirby Dach

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AP

Hawks Talk Podcast: 1-on-1 with Blackhawks No. 3 overall pick Kirby Dach

After being introduced to the media, Blackhawks third-overall pick Kirby Dach sits down with Charlie Roumeliotis to talk about what it's like to join the historic Original Six franchise, why he wears the number 77 and how he plans on breaking camp in the NHL this fall.

0:35 – Kirby Dach joins the podcast

0:55 – Dach on the history of the Blackhawks

1:25 – His conversations with Kane and Toews

1:40 – The whirlwind after the draft process

2:10 – His meetings with the Blackhawks at the combine

2:50 – What draft day was like

3:23 – On his competitive nature

3:40 – How much hockey does he watch?

4:20 – How his game translates to playoff hockey

4:50 – Why he wears No. 77

5:10 – Will he wear 77 in the NHL?

5:30 – His offseason plans

6:10 – His goal of making the NHL right away

6:25 – Winning the Cup would be…

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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'Winning to me is everything': Kirby Dach wants to play big role in helping Blackhawks win more Stanley Cups

'Winning to me is everything': Kirby Dach wants to play big role in helping Blackhawks win more Stanley Cups

Three days after he became the sixth player in franchise history to be taken third overall, the Blackhawks welcomed Kirby Dach to Chicago on Monday for the first time to show him around his new organization. He was given a tour of Fifth Third Arena, the Blackhawks locker room and plans to explore the city over the next few days.

"It's been crazy," Dach said of the last 72 hours. "After hearing my name called, I didn't hear anything or remember anything. I had to watch the video over a couple times to remember what happened, I kind of just blacked out in the moment and enjoyed it. I flew home two days ago and flew here [Sunday] and it's been awesome. The facility here is first class and I can't wait to get started in a couple weeks in [development] camp."

It's an exciting day for the organization and the city of Chicago because the Blackhawks are adding an elite prospect during a time where they're retooling for a chance to win another Stanley Cup.

"This is an important day for us for a couple reasons," GM Stan Bowman said. "I've had a chance to get to know Kirby over the last few months and I think as you guys get a chance to talk to him and hear from him, you're going to find out that he's really committed to being the best he can be and to making the Blackhawks an elite team.

"The other thing is we talk about what makes a player important in today's NHL. People say you've got to have a high skill level and being able to create offense is important. Other people are going to say you look at the way the playoffs were played and skill's great but you've got to have size and competitiveness. So that's the more important attribute. When you look at the game that Kirby brings to Chicago, he's got a little bit of everything. He's got the skill to play with the high-skill players. He can make plays that can wow you. He's also got the competitiveness to show that he wants it more than anyone else. I think we've got a special player here and as you'll see we're excited for what's to come."

Dach, who's a 6-foot-4, 198-pound center, is the kind of player you build around and he's already joining a group that features three-time Stanley Cup champions Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews. He already received phone calls from Kane and Toews welcoming him to the franchise.

"Growing up as a kid in Canada, you're always watching hockey," Dach said. "And when they were winning Stanley Cups all the time in Chicago here — with the three in the six years — Toews and Kane, Keith and Seabrook, were a big part of that. And to be in a dressing room with those guys now is pretty surreal, and those are the moments you dream of as a kid. To have it come true, you have to take a step back and realize that."

While he may have looked up to them as a kid, Dach is now part of the group and wants to play a large role on a team that wins not just one more championship but several.

"Winning to me is everything," Dach said. "There's a saying, 'You gotta hate to lose before you like to win.' And I hate to lose so anything I do I always have to win no matter what it is. It's something that drives me and the ultimate goal in hockey is to win the Stanley Cup and I'm going to work as hard as I can and push myself to every limit to get there because that's what I want to do.

"Obviously Chicago's had a couple runs here in the past where they've been able to do that and I want to be a part of those runs and be a key member of those teams."

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.