At this time last week, it was easy to write the Blackhawks season off. They had dropped three games in a row for the first time all year and lost two of their most important players for the remainder of the year.
Much like birth, taxes, and death, a Blackhawks surge come playoff time has developed into one of life’s consistencies over the past few years. Time and time again, this team has shown the ability to overcome adversity. This recent stretch is no different. Who would have thought that the Hawks would be able to muster up three straight wins without Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, let alone win three straight against playoff teams?
The Hawks recent surge is due in large part to a return to basics. Puck possession is the name of the game for the Blackhawks, and has been the catalyst in their strong play. By spending a majority of time in the opponents offensive zone and outshooting the opponents, the Hawks essentially neutralize their oppositions chances while simultaneously making the other team rely on lucky bounces or mental miscues to get serious chances.
Much like baseball, advanced statistical metrics are becoming the norm in the hockey world. Corsi & Fenwick are two great stats that help reflect a player’s value when they are on the ice (for a great explanation of how these stats work, check out this article). Predictably, Hawks players like Keith, Hossa, Sharp, etc. all have higher Corsi ratings, but what stands out to me the most are three players. Bryan Bickell, Peter Regin, and Jeremy Morin. My goodness has this line been a force and for the most part has generated the best Corsi ratings on the team during this win streak.
Morin & Regin’s play recently gives the Hawks an interesting scenario once Toews and Kane return. Outside of their high possession numbers, they have been able to do something Hawks fans have been hoping for the entire year. Get Bryan Bickell going. The crash and bang line as I’ll dub them has been relentless along the boards and in front of the net. This dynamic is ESSENTIAL during playoff hockey and will serve to wear down the opponent throughout the game. Combine the crash and bang line with the playmaking abilities of the first & second lines and you get a dangerous offensive attack that comes at you in waves. The team is beginning to click at the right times and having a plethora of players playing well is a blessing come playoff time.
Here are the lines I would ice for Game 1 of the playoffs against Colorado when Toews & Kane return.
If the third line mentioned above continues their strong play, I would have a hard time believing Coach Q would disrupt the chemistry once the playoffs start. While sitting Bollig will be an unpopular one, the speed of the fourth line is much better suited against a fast Colorado team. Shaw, Kruger, and Versteeg have plenty of grit to their game to help make up for Bollig’s absence.
As we’ve seen with Coach Q, the lines are bound to change until he finds something he likes. That will not be the exception here.