CHICAGO – After mixing and matching players throughout the Blackhawks’ second-round series against the Detroit Red Wings, Joel Quenneville decided to put three of his top players together.
The Hawks had nothing to lose by combining Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane on the top line. All told, the talented trio has combined for 515 goals in their NHL careers.
“They’ve played [together] in the past, and they’ve played [together] during the year, a few shifts here and there,” Quenneville said Saturday before the Hawks hosted the Wings in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals. “I think they like playing with one another.”
Kane confirmed Quenneville’s hunch.
“For us, we played a lot together my first couple years in the league and kind of developed some chemistry where it was pretty instant and we had a lot of offensive chances,” Kane said. “I think we’ve just got to remember how to play with each other. We haven’t done it in a while.”
For Kane, the move came with little to no downside. The Hawks’ second line to start the game consisted of Bryan Bickell, Michael Handzus and Marian Hossa, while the team’s third line included Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw and Viktor Stalberg.
On the fourth line, Marcus Kruger centered for Michael Frolik and Dave Bolland.
“I think there’s so much depth on the team you don’t have to really worry about [the downside],” Kane said. “I still like the lineup up and down, for sure.”
Chipping in: Although Toews, Hossa and others have drawn scrutiny for their lack of offensive production in the series, the Hawks’ blue-liners said they also deserved part of the blame.
Hawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said he could do more to create offense.
“As defensemen, I think we can do a better job giving the forwards the puck quicker and in better situations,” Hjalmarsson said, “and just try to push as much as we can to get some goals.”
Quenneville agreed but said his defensemen should not sacrifice their primary job for offense.
“We’ve had some games where we’ve probably been more active than other games,” Quenneville said of his defensemen. “We’d like to see more involvement as we go along here. But defending is what the priority is back there, and that’s their job, and that’s what we encourage first.”
Hawks bits: Quenneville also changed his defensive pairings, reuniting Brent Seabrook with Duncan Keith. … Seabrook earned more ice time in the first two periods of Game 5 than he did in all of Game 4.