Blackhawks’ top lines looking familiar again

Blackhawks’ top lines looking familiar again

Coach Joel Quenneville said late last week that it wasn’t wise to read too much into the Blackhawks’ lines at the time.

On Monday you could read more into those lines, and the top two looked pretty familiar.

Marian Hossa was back with Jonathan Toews, with Richard Panik on the left wing, and the second line of Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane was together again as the Blackhawks prepped for Wednesday’s regular-season opener against the St. Louis Blues.

With Andrew Desjardins out 4-6 weeks with a lower-body injury, their bottom two lines are youth heavy. Tyler Motte, who wowed in training camp, is on the third line with Marcus Kruger and Ryan Hartman. Vinnie Hinostroza, Nick Schmaltz and Jordin Tootoo comprise the fourth line.

  Left wing Center Right wing
First line Richard Panik Jonathan Toews Marian Hossa
Second line Artemi Panarin Artem Anisimov Patrick Kane
Third line Tyler Motte Marcus Kruger Ryan Hartman
Fourth line Vincent Hinostroza Nick Schmaltz Jordin Tootoo

So the Blackhawks will start with top-six players who know each other very well.

“Right now we talk about balance, and we feel that balance and predictability is having four lines where we have familiarity,” Quenneville said. “That’s probably the most important reason why we’re looking to start with a couple of established lines up front and work our way.”

Quenneville had talked of making changes to get more balance in the Blackhawks’ lineup. When Hossa returned to practice last Friday he was part of a third line with Marcus Kruger, Panarin was on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Motte was with Anisimov and Kane. Hossa and Kane both said they would do whatever was in the team’s best interest but in terms of Panarin and Kane, specifically, there’s no doubt the two had tremendous chemistry that was tough to beat and even tougher to split up. When the two were together following a penalty kill in last week’s victory against Detroit, Kane had the primary assist on a Panarin goal.

[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Five questions facing the Blackhawks as regular season begins]

Talking after that game, Kane commented on the possibility of he and Panarin being split.

"Yeah, I mean, you know, last year I think is probably the one year that I really only played with a couple players, so I'm used to playing all over the place, playing with different guys,” he said. “We'll see what happens. I know they wanted to try something different for the game tonight and maybe throughout preseason, so I'll just play where they tell me to play, I guess."

As of now, Kane and Panarin are together again. Same with Toews and Hossa. How long things last remains to be seen but a few players who have had great success together will see if they can build on that on opening night.

Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford's 250th win puts him in elite company


Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford's 250th win puts him in elite company

Corey Crawford captured a coveted goalie milestone with another solid performance in a 2-1 shootout victory for the Blackhawks on Friday in New Jersey. The Hawks (12-12-5) beat the Atlantic division-leading Bruins 4-3 in overtime in Boston with Robin Lehner in net on Thursday before playing the Devils, last in the Metropolitan, Friday with Crawford starting. 

"It's important to try to climb back up in the standings," Crawford said following the game. "We had a few tough games, it seems like it's been pretty streaky the first quarter of the season, but when we're playing well I think we're pretty tough to beat. We just got to try to find that game as much as possible. 

"But that was obviously a big win to start it and against one of the best teams in the league (the Bruins) and having a big lead too, going late into the third period, and then a team that's a little bit lower in the standings (the Devils), but you still have to come out hard and play, no games are easy. It was pretty competitive out there but it's nice to find a way to win." 

The two-time Stanley Cup champ saved 29 of 30 shots through overtime, including a Miles Wood breakaway with 11 seconds remaining in the second period and the game tied 1-1. He also stopped three of five New Jersey Devils shooters including Taylor Hall and 2019 No. 1 overall pick Jack Hughes in the shootout. 

Crawford became the 59th goalie in NHL history to record 250 wins. The 34-year-old is one of 13 active NHL goalies and just the third Hawks netminder to reach the milestone (Glen Hall: 276, Tony Esposito: 418).

Crawford is 250-149-52 in 464 games with the Blackhawks and has 26 shutouts. 

5 Takeaways: Kirby Dach leads Blackhawks to 2-1 win in shootout vs. Devils


5 Takeaways: Kirby Dach leads Blackhawks to 2-1 win in shootout vs. Devils

The Blackhawks won 2-1 against the New Jersey Devils in a shootout on Friday. Here are five takeaways:

Top to bottom

The Hawks were looking to establish some momentum in Jersey following a big win Thursday in Boston. Jonathan Toews scored in overtime and Alex DeBrincat ended a 12-game goal drought to help the Hawks to a 4-3 OT win over the Bruins, ending the Blackhawks' 3-game losing streak in which they were outscored 16-5. 

Going from facing the first place team in the Atlantic division (second in the NHL) on Thursday to the last place team in the Metropolitan division (second to last in the league) on Friday proved to be tougher than imagined. 

Alex DeBrincat scored the lone regulation goal for Chicago and Kirby Dach, the No. 3 pick of the 2019 NHL Draft, scored the final goal of the shootout and set up No. 1 pick Jack Hughes to get stopped by Corey Crawford for the 2-1 final score. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane also scored in the shootout for the Blackhawks.

Crow 250

Corey Crawford won his 250th NHL game on Friday. The two-time Stanley Cup champ is the 59th goalie in NHL history to reach the milestone and one of 13 active netminders to do so. The 34-year-old is the third goalie to reach 250 wins with the Blackhawks. 

Crawford saved 29 of 30 New Jersey shots ahead of the shootout. 

Cat on the prowl 

DeBrincat scored his second goal in two games after not lighting the lamp in his previous 12. This is a good sign for the forward, who is known to score in bunches.

Gilbert getting noticed

Dennis Gilbert skated in his second straight game with the Hawks with Olli Maatta (flu-like symptoms) missing both contents on the road trip. Gilbert had a solid game in Boston Thursday and improved his case Friday, putting a big hit on Hughes then having a decent showing after answering the bell with Wayne Simmonds.

Kane watch

Kane tied Andy Bathgate for 93rd on the NHL career points list (973), assisting on DeBrincat's second period goal.