Five Things from Hawks-Isles: Top line auditions continue


Five Things from Hawks-Isles: Top line auditions continue

Coach Joel Quenneville left New York on Friday night happier with the Blackhawks in Game 2 than in Game 1, but saying he needed to see more for Game 3.

“We have to be better,” he said.

On Saturday night, the Blackhawks were better. In their best all-around game of this early season – yes, we know three games is a small sample size – the Blackhawks got a little something from everyone in their 4-1 victory over the New York Islanders. It was a positive way to end the weekend for the Blackhawks, who won two of their first three to start the season.

[MORE: Second line shines again as Blackhawks top Islanders]

So before we wrap up the weekend, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory on Saturday night.

1. The Arty Line is pretty good. This is becoming a broken record but one the Blackhawks will listen to incessantly. That line name, by the way, came from Quenneville. Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane have made a strong combination, and Panarin and Kane combined for six points (a goal, two assists each) on Saturday. All lines have their ups and downs. The Blackhawks will ride this one as long as it’s up.

2. Teuvo Teravainen looks more like himself. Teravainen has plenty of skill and he’s gotten better defensively. But he looked hesitant when on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. Perhaps he feels compelled to pass to those two as often as possible but on Saturday, centering the third line, Teravainen was showing the puck possession and shot that Quenneville wants to see from him. “He’s got that high-end ability to possess [the puck] and distribute it at the right times, draw attention and make sustained plays,” Quenneville said. “We still like his effectiveness without the puck and that reliability helps him make another line we can trust and play in all situations.”

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3. TVR improving. Trevor van Riemsdyk got off to a slow start this season – actually his camp wasn’t as good as last year’s, either. But with each passing game van Riemsdyk is looking more comfortable. It didn’t hurt that he got two points, including his first NHL goal, on Saturday night. The confidence is building. “That first game was a slow start by me, personally. That can’t happen,” van Riemsdyk said. “I think as the games have gone on I’ve felt more comfortable playing better and better. I just want to be progressing in that upward way.”

4. Darling shows no rust. Scott Darling wasn’t supposed to get the second half of the Blackhawks’ final preseason game, but he did when Corey Crawford came out for precautionary reasons. Darling said at the time it helped to get a little unexpected work in. Whether that factored into tonight, who knows, but Darling looked comfortable from the start against the Islanders. The lone goal he gave up really wasn’t his fault – it came off a turnover – but Darling looked ready for the season in stopping 28 of 29 shots.

5. Top-line auditions continue. Ryan Garbutt got his chance with Toews and Hossa on Saturday. Quenneville said Garbutt was, “all right. He was OK.” The Blackhawks will keep looking for the first-line fix – hey, it could be Teravainen again if that game he played tonight transitions to the top line. But Quenneville said the Blackhawks will try and settle on a left wing there soon.

Andrew Shaw trying to find balance between toeing the line and not crossing it for Blackhawks

Andrew Shaw trying to find balance between toeing the line and not crossing it for Blackhawks

The Blackhawks brought Andrew Shaw back to Chicago because they lacked some bite to their game. He's already meeting expectations in the physicality department, leading the team with 23 hits.

But the other part of his game the Blackhawks have to live with is the amount of penalties he takes. Through six games this season, Shaw has taken at least one penalty in five of them and is tied for third among all NHL skaters with six minors. The only two skaters above him are guys who have played in two and four more games, respectively.

Because he plays on the edge, Shaw will occasionally cross it and he's trying to find that balance between toeing the line and not stepping over it.

"I find if I'm not playing on the edge, I'm not playing great," Shaw said. "I need to play physical. Even in preseason, I was just finishing checks — clean, shoulder-to-shoulder — and was getting penalty after penalty. Hockey still is a physical game. There's still hitting; it's still legal. So I'm going to go out there and play hard, make it hard on my opponents, make it hard on them physically, do what I do. Not going to change who I am now. I'm an old dog."

Shaw's reputation may also contribute to the matter. He's racked up more than 600 penalty minutes in his NHL career, including postseason, and the officials might be keeping a closer eye on him when he's on the ice.

"It's something he's got to be aware of, but I also think he's got a bullseye on him," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "If I go back through all the penalties he's taken, he probably earned a couple and he probably earned them five years ago. That's something he's got to deal with. We want him to play hard. I think we can handle the ones where he's running people over. We'll kill those off. Obviously the stick penalties and stuff we don't want. But he's playing hard for the team. That's a good thing."

Said Shaw: "The referees, no matter the history of the player, should call the game as it is. If there's a penalty, call a penalty. If there's not a penalty, you let it go. I mean, yeah, I might have been too vocal in my younger days. But the past three years I've been trying to clean it up a little bit. I just take my penalties when I get 'em. But I must have dug myself a really deep hole. Just trying to climb out of it since."

Still, Shaw knows he has to be smarter about the timing of his penalties and where they're happening. The ones that occur in the offensive zone are the penalties that must be eradicated from his game. The ones he earns from battling between the whistles and sticking up for his teammates, the Blackhawks can live with those.

"Obviously I don't want to take penalties, I don't want to put my team down," Shaw said. "I also don't agree with all of the ones I got. I think I got the short end of the stick on a lot of them. Bite my tongue, go to the box. Our PK's been working hard and competing and killing some penalties. Hopefully they start going my way, I guess."

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Robin Lehner to start in goal for Blackhawks vs. Golden Knights

USA Today

Robin Lehner to start in goal for Blackhawks vs. Golden Knights

Robin Lehner will start in goal for the Blackhawks when they host the Vegas Golden Knights at the United Center on Tuesday, coach Jeremy Colliton confirmed after morning skate. It will be his third start of the season.

Lehner is coming off a game in which he stopped 37 of 39 shots for a save percentage of .949, which earned him the No. 3 star of the game in a 3-2 overtime win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday. He was fantastic. 

Lehner is 1-0-1 with a 2.47 goals-against average and .931 save percentage in two starts this season.

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.