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Zawaski: Blackhawks’ Morin Has Earned A Playoff Spot

Jeremy Morin. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Jeremy Morin. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Jay Zawaski. Jay Zawaski
Jay Zawaski is the Executive Producer of The Spiegel and Mannelly...
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By Jay Zawaski-

(CBS) Before I make my case for Jeremy Morin as a winger in the Blackhawks’ playoff lineup, I will qualify a few things first.

Yes, I understand that the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the regular season are vastly different.

Yes, I understand that several Blackhawks have more playoff experience than Morin.

Yes, I understand that coach Joel Quenneville has his security blankies and is pretty unlikely to opt for a young player over a veteran in the playoffs.

With all that said, Morin deserves a spot in the lineup when the playoffs open next week. Since his recall on March 21, Morin has five points in seven games. He’s also on a four-game point scoring streak and has been one of the best “eye-test” players on the team. Not only has he contributed, but he’s been a catalyst for much of the Chicago offense. Morin’s speed, physicality and scoring ability have paid dividends since Jonathan Toews went down.

Aside from the basic numbers, which have been great, his metrics have been even more impressive. In Sunday’s game against the Blues, Morin had an NHL-leading 84.2 percent Corsi rating. When he was on the ice, the Blackhawks generated 16 shot attempts (shots, blocked shots, missed shots) and only allowed three. That’s unbelievable and may seem to be an aberration, but his numbers have been outstanding in nearly every game he’s played.

Morin’s lowest Corsi rating came Thursday against Montreal, but he still had a percentage of 57.1, which put him fourth among Chicago skaters.

So the question is, who sits in Morin’s place?

Let’s take a look at the potential playoff lines and try to find a slot for Morin.

First line: Sharp-Toews-Hossa

Second line: Saad-Handzus/Shaw-Kane

Third line: Bickell-Shaw/Handzus-Versteeg

Fourth line: Bollig-Kruger-Smith

Like I said earlier, Quenneville has his veteran security blankets — namely Kris Versteeg and Michal Handzus. I believe it’s highly unlikely Versteeg is benched, so would Quenneville opt for Morin over Handzus? Handzus’ penalty killing ability probably keeps him in the lineup, at least until he proves he can’t keep up anymore.

What about Brandon Bollig?

Yes, he’s been a solid fourth-liner and has appeared in every game this season, but the playoffs are a different game. If the Blackhawks are facing the Avalanche in the first round, which is a safe assumption at this point, they need to dress a lineup built on speed and keep the grit up in the press box.

I went back and looked at the last few playoff seasons for the Blackhawks, searching for evidence of Quenneville playing a guy most of the season, then abandoning him for the playoffs. The best I could find is Colin Fraser. He appeared in 70 regular-season games in the 2009-10 Stanley Cup-winning season. In the playoffs, Quenneville used him in only three games. There’s your comparison. Fraser, like Bollig, was a solid fourth-line contributor.

Now, let’s remove Bollig from the playoff roster and insert Morin.

First line: Sharp-Toews-Hossa

Second line: Saad-Handzus/Shaw-Kane

Third line: Bickell-Handzus/Shaw-Versteeg

Fourth line: Morin-Kruger-Smith

I like the lineup much more with Morin, especially against a speedy Avalanche team. Colorado is one of the few teams in the game that can skate with Chicago. In fact, the Avalanche might actually be faster. They won’t try to beat up the Blackhawks, so even if you suscribe to the “enforcer as deterrent” theory (I don’t), it makes sense for Chicago to arm itself with the appropriate weapons.

You don’t need a tank to kill a roadrunner. You need a cheetah.

(OK, that was lame. Sorry.)

Jay Zawaski covers the Blackhawks for CBSChicago.com and 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @JayZawaski670.