Remember the days when Blackhawks fans couldn’t tell the difference between the first, second, and third lines? And the only reason you could identify which was the fourth line was because it always had Adam Burish on it?
There was a time when coach Joel Quenneville would adimately state that he didn’t put numbers on lines. Meaning he viewed all 16 forwards as a balanced attack of talented skaters not subjected to the classification of “first line” or “third line”. I miss those days.
We all know this wasn’t really the case. The first line was whichever line Toews was centering and the second line contained some combination of Patrick Kane and another scorer. On rare occasions we would see Toews with Kane, which just wasn’t fair. The truth behind what Q was talking about by “not having any lines” is that the balance the Hawks presented every day on the ice gave him the flexibility to play matchups.
I love the Kane/Anisimov/Panarin line. Mostly because it’s good to see a young player flashing some skills in Panarin, which has been relatively void over the past couple years for the Hawks save for a guy who now plays for the Blue Jackets. What I don’t like is that this line has accounted for over 50% of all the points scored by forwards for the Blackhawks. That means opposing players know they only need to bow up on defense when 88/15/72 is on the ice.
Even the Toews line hasn’t been spectacular in the early going. More recently it seems like the captain has been more concerned with fighting than putting the puck in the net, which I HATE. Sure, you’ve had a history of concussions, but hey, that guy just called your teammate a coward, go get ’em Jonny!
The Hawks’ core is probably good enough to get them back to the playoffs. What I don’t like is that the talent difference between the core players and the rest of the team is far too vast. The second line…err first line…whatever, needs to keep scoring at the pace that they have, but others need to contribute as well.