The Blackhawks’ offensive lines are not only some of the highest scoring in the National Hockey League but also understand the importance of playing two-way hockey.
The Blackhawks top scoring line of center Jonathan Toews, right-wing Patrick Kane, and left-wing Viktor Stalberg currently has a combined total of 53 goals and 123 points. The connection between team captain Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane is one of the best in the league.
Toews will skate into the opponent’s zone 1-on-3 dangling the puck with what will look like a hard wrist-shot, but turns into a drop-pass for the swooping Patrick Kane. Opponents then pull themselves out of position trying to chase Kane setting up Toews or Stalberg in front of the net waiting for a quick pass and a nice shot.
The knowledge and control of an offensive play is what makes Toews so special. He maintains a cool face, strong puck control, and leaves his opponents wondering what is yet to come.
Finding the right center between left-wing Patrick Sharp and right-wing Marian Hossa is harder than one might think. Sharp and Hossa both have over 20 goals each and 95 points combined. Hossa has some of the best puck control in the NHL and Sharp has a one of the best shots on the team.
With the wrong player centering these two wingers all that talent could end up minimally showing up on the scoreboard. So there is a lot of pressure on the hawks’ recently acquired Brendan Morrison who is centering this line.
This season Morrison reached 600 career points but is a more physical center. His intentions to bruise opponents and help protect his fellow wingers could potentially make the Blackhawks second-line as dangerous as their first.
The third o-line consisting of left-wing Andrew Brunette, center Dave Bolland and right-wing Michael Frolik shouldn’t be over-looked. When the Blackhawks were battling numerous injuries to their top forwards this line was big in keeping this team towards the top of the NHL.
38-year old Brunette brings over 1,000 games experience of being a top liner with teams such as the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche, so stepping up in Chicago wasn’t going to be a problem for him. Brunette also only has four penalty-minutes in 52 games this year. So he has been a huge reason to keeping the team off a troublesome penalty kill.
Bolland is one of the most aggressive players on the Blackhawks. He crashes the net hard, wins faceoffs and has no problem playing the body. Frolik is the youngest player on this line and has good opportunities to learn from veterans who have been successful in the game.
Leading the fourth line with years of experience, intimidation and big hits is right-winger Jamal Mayers. Mayers experience and knowledge of the game will be good to help guide these first year full time players.
The Mayers style of play is also seen in left-winger Andrew Shaw. He averages almost three hits and close to a point per game in only 13 games this season. The strength in seven games Marcus Kruger played last season helped earn his full time spot as a center on this line, but sometimes doesn’t receive the same attention as his line-mates.
With all the star players in the NHL sometimes fans can overlook the quality of good lines and strong chemistry. The Blackhawks have players like Kane, Toews, and Hossa who are considered to be some of the best in the league, but what separates them from Rick Nash and the Columbus Blue Jackets is the strength of the team as a whole.
After a tiring nine-game road stretch, look for a Blackhawks strong offensive drive to bring them back to the top of the Western Conference.