By Jay Zawaski–
(CBS) “If you play like that, you’ll find a way to win games going forward.”
Those were the words of Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville after this team’s fourth consecutive defeat, this time a 3-2 loss at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night at the United Center.
Of course, he’s right. The Blackhawks did a lot well Wednesday night. They won the possession battle handily (60-47 in even-strength Corsi). Some of the new lines looked truly rejuvenated, some … not so much (more on that later). But at the end of all that, it was another Blackhawks’ loss and another reason for some observers to write off this season, just like they have often in the past in doubting the championship hopes.
Here are the shorties of the night.
Q playing favorites: Now and again, one of my Twitter followers will call me out for being overly critical of Quenneville. I’m not sure occasionally questioning roster decisions is being overly critical, but here we are.
I’ve joked over the years about how the Hawks should have one more championship in this era, that had Quenneville only played his best players, instead of his favorites, 2014 would have ended with the Stanley Cup in Chicago instead of Los Angeles.
That year, it was Brandon Bollig in the lineup over Peter Regin and Brandon Pirri. While Regin and Pirri are hardly the second comings of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, they were better players than Bollig, especially considering that Quenneville only played the tough winger for a handful of minutes per playoff game.
Now, it seems that the “untouchable” label has been given to future Hall of Famers Brandon Mashinter and Trevor van Riemsdyk.
These two, despite their lack of contributions (Mashinter) and glaring defensive miscues (van Riemsdyk), remain in the lineup, while superior players like Richard Panik, Dennis Rasmussen and Christian Ehrhoff struggle to stay out of the press box.
If you listened to last week’s Madhouse Chicago Hockey Podcast, you heard me mention that the Hawks’ core players prefer having a tough guy in the lineup, and that’s why Mashinter continues to play. But doesn’t the acquisition of Dale Weise solve that problem?
Like most debates realating to the Blackhawks, there’s no real reason to sweat it until the playoffs are underway, but Quenneville has outsmarted himself before. Let’s hope he learned his lesson then.
New-look lines: The nuclear option has been activated. Toews and Kane spent Wednesday as linemates for the first time in a long time, and it worked. Of course it did. Tomas Fleischmann served as a functional “go get the puck and don’t screw up” left wing option. I’d like to see Quenneville roll that line out one more time Friday in Winnipeg.
The second line of Artem Anisimov, Artemi Panarin and Marian Hossa accounted for several scoring chances of its own.
The third line — consisting of Teuvo Teravainen, Andrew Ladd and Andrew Shaw — was largely invisible, which surprised me. I was pleased to see Teravainen at center and playing with skilled wingers. That line, however, finished at minus-10 in Corsi, and Ladd and Teravainen failed to register a shot on goal. With some time to jell, I believe this line can really work. I wonder how itchy Quenneville’s blender finger will get, though.
The fourth line was a mash of what was left. Andrew Desjardins, Weise and Mashinter played together. I like this line a lot better with Marcus Kruger centering Desjardins and Weise, but that would mean scratching Mashinter. It didn’t seem like that’s happening anytime soon.
Speaking of Weise: I was quite impressed with Weise’s overall game Wednesday. In his limited ice time (7:44), he showed some excellent forechecking ability and set up Desjardins for a glorious scoring chance that rang off the crossbar.
When that trade was made, most penciled Weise and Fleischmann as Teravainen’s left and right wingers. Aside from a few short shifts, we haven’t seen that combination at all.
Weise has more skill than Quenneville is willing to admit. He and Shaw are quite comparable skill wise, but Shaw and Kruger have shown some chemistry. Once Kruger returns, I’d like to see Shaw and Weise flip flop.
Jay Zawaski is the executive producer of the Spiegel and Goff Show on 670 The Score and the Blackhawks columnist for CBSChicago.com. He also hosts a weekly podcast with James Neveau of NBCChicago.com that you can listen and subscribe to here. Follow him on Twitter @JayZawaski670.