For a while, the second line of Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane was very quiet. Considering what that trio has done over the last year or so, it was surprising.
Maybe defenses were catching onto them. Maybe defenses were just zeroing in on them; with so much flux and inconsistency with the Blackhawks’ other lines, it was easy to see that happening. So entering the Blackhawks’ final two games of the Ice Show Trip the inevitable question arose: was it time to break up the second-line band?
“I still think there’s always something there,” Quenneville said at the time. “It’s a lot for the opponents to be concerned with to try and prevent. You get a little bit of a feel good whether they get one goal or a couple of scoring chances again and could be ignited quickly. For a year and change that line’s been the best in the game. We know it has a lot of capabilities.”
Lo and behold, the last two games that line has started generating points again, be it as a line or as part of the Blackhawks’ power play. Five points against the Arizona Coyotes. Five more points against the Dallas Stars. Kane has two goals and an assist in his last two games. Panarin broke his nine-game goal-less skid on Thursday and has three points in the last two contests. Same for Anisimov (three assists). Couple that with the scoring threats and you understand why Quenneville was hesitant to break them up.
[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]
What’s the biggest complaint when the Blackhawks go through line changes? That they usually happen too often. Players don’t have a chance to develop any chemistry. Well, those three had plenty of chemistry from the first moment they were thrown together. That’s why even when things don’t go swimmingly, you give them some time to figure it out.
The Blackhawks have gone through a lot of changes over the past few seasons. Quenneville has done well in tinkering when necessary, and much of it has been necessary. So when you do get three that work well together you stick with it. The second line wasn’t broken. There was no reason to fix it.
• General manager Stan Bowman said last week that he wasn’t surprised that Ryan Hartman and Vinnie Hinostroza had adapted to the Blackhawks as well as they had. He cited the time the two spent in Rockford for their smoother transition to the Blackhawks. Still, Hartman’s goal total has been a pleasant surprise to Bowman. “Ryan’s production is a little ahead of schedule,” he said of Hartman, who now has 12 goals following the Blackhawks’ 5-3 victory over the Dallas Stars. “He’s on pace for almost 20 goals, and that’s a lot for a rookie. Hopefully he keeps that pace up.”
• Speaking of Hinostroza, expect him to be back in the lineup soon. Hinostroza was a healthy scratch in the last two games, as coach Quenneville was looking for more reliable defensive game. But Quenneville said there’s no plan for Hinostroza to head to Rockford. “We don’t expect him to be out too much longer here,” Quenneville said on Saturday afternoon.”