Blackhawks’ Four-line Rotation Shaping Up

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CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 23: Ryan Hartman #38 of the Chicago Blackhawks controls the puck against the Colorado Avalanche at the United Center on December 23, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

by Scott King

Sunday night’s 5-2 Blackhawks victory over the Nashville Predators and Ryan Hartman hat trick didn’t only showcase the homegrown forward’s skill and growth, but how the team’s depth and four-line rotation are progressing across the board.

“[Ryan Hartman has] been a big player for us this year,” said Patrick Kane following Sunday’s victory. “He’s been very productive, he plays a good solid hockey game that we’ve been missing for a little bit. He’s physical, he draws penalties, and it seems like he’s always on the puck, so he’s had a great season so far.”

The Hawk’s will be much stronger up the middle when Marcus Kruger (upper body) returns, but promising signs for the four-line rotation have emerged during the Hawks’ current three-game winning streak.

Last season’s best line in the NHL (Panarin-Anisimov-Kane) never really went away, and Patrick Kane seems to be back to being his 2016 Hart trophy-winning self. After Sunday’s three point night, Kane is tied for second in league points (44) with Sidney Crosby.

Center Artem Anisimov leads the Hawks with 18 goals and Artemi Panarin is sixth in the league in points (41). This season, Panarin can’t seem to stop scoring on Patrick Kane-fed one-timers from the left circle.

“I think you don’t want to go too far out there,” said Hawks head coach Joel Quenneville on Panarin’s favorite area to score from. “I like it when he’s inside the dot, but he’s got a great release and the quickness of it, sometimes the distraction of the pass coming to him, keeps the goalie a little frozen and makes for a longer travel for him. But tremendous shot, couldn’t put it in a better spot.”

Vinnie Hinostroza and his speedy skating look more and more like the Hawks’ answer to Jonathan Toews’ left wing. The rookie has been using his quick bursts of speed to generate more quality scoring chances for Toews and Hossa.

The call-up of Tanner Kero, to make up for Kruger’s absence in the bottom six, has made the third line a force to be reckoned with. Kero has a strong two-way game, and right wing Richard Panik being hard on pucks and crashing the net has helped Hartman regularly light the lamp, as seen on Sunday.

“I think that line with Kero (Tanner Kero), Pans’ (Richard Panik) and Hartsy’ (Ryan Hartman) have been playing really well, so it’s nice to see them get rewarded with a goal,” Kane said after Sunday’s game.

“Me and Kers’ (Tanner Kero) played together in Rockford a little bit,” Hartman said. “We had some chemistry down there. Me and Pans’ have played together, in and out, through out the year.

“He’s so fast and you get him the puck, he has a lot of skill, so he’s an easy guy to play with. You got Kers’, he’s strong on faceoffs. You start out with the puck a lot, I think that helps.”

The fourth line of Desjardins-Rasmussen-Tootoo saw more ice time than usual on Sunday, in large part due to Jordin Tootoo’s approach to playing his former team.

“I thought Toots was on fire tonight,” Kane said. “He played a great game, he was all over the puck, counter hits, controlling the puck, getting shots on net, keeping the puck in their end.

“Desi’ (Andrew Desjardins) same thing and Ras’ (Dennis Rasmussen). That line was good to see going. I think if they play like that they’ll get themselves a lot more ice time, a little more responsibility.”

Up Next

The Hawks play the Red Wings at the United Center on Tuesday at 7:30 PM.

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