There are a few things the Blackhawks have had in recent years that they’d like to have again.
Balanced 5-on-5 scoring, sure. They’re getting there. Another thing is that four-line rotation. It’s been there in the past, and that’s included that fourth line. And while it’s taken a while for the Blackhawks to find the right chemistry on all but one of their lines this season, it looks like they may be onto something now with their fourth trio.
Andrew Desjardins, Marcus Kruger and Ryan Garbutt may be the fourth-line combination the Blackhawks have been looking for again. No, they’re not the three guys you look to for goals, although connecting on a few of those chances is encouraged – Desjardins and Garbutt have a goal each this season while Kruger was denied what could have been his first on Sunday. But the Blackhawks’ past fourth lines have done well in spending time creating offensively as they have playing defensively. So far this season, these three have done it best.
“I thought that line had its most effective game all year long,” coach Joel Quenneville said of the line’s game vs. Winnipeg on Sunday. “They generated some chances, had one taken away but some real high quality. But the thing we liked best was the zone time they had, the puck possession and thesupport they had around the puck and relentlessly pursuing it when they didn’t happen. That was more representative of what we saw the last few years. If we get that predictability from that group, now all of a sudden we’re looking like a four-line rotation team.”
Desjardins, Kruger and Garbutt were together earlier this season but be it the chemistry not clicking immediately or the Blackhawks trying to figure out what worked best for other lines – especially that first one – they were separated. Quenneville put them back together heading into Sunday’s game and the group was noticeable.
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“It’s been nice being reunited with them, the two guys I was thinking I’d play with when I got here,” Garbutt said. “They play the game really hard. They’re tenacious, get the pucks in the offensive zone and play well defensively and Krugs is really good on face-offs. So definitely enjoying my time playing with them.”
The fourth line is getting solid minutes again. They’re working well on both sides of the ice again. And if this continues the Blackhawks have abetter shot at being that successful four-line team again.
“I think we just read off each other well, fed off each other well, kept it simple,” Desjardins said. “We talked about it before the game: you get success when you work as three and do those things and I think we have something to prove to ourselves as well. I can’t speak for them, but I’m sure they’d be in the same boat; we want to be more of an influence in games. It was the case where we fed off each other and worked.”