Patrick Sharp went through the Blackhawks’ drills to the left of Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa as part of the team’s top line. Brandon Saad took his place on the second line with Dave Bolland and Patrick Kane.
It could’ve been a ruse. It could’ve been a sign that coach Joel Quenneville liked what he saw when he rolled those two combinations during Game 3 on Monday night. Chances are it’s the latter. It doesn’t matter, really: one way or the other, the Blackhawks need to find a way to score goals. And if these combinations do it, then the Blackhawks will go with them.
The Blackhawks shook up the top two lines (slightly) during Wednesday’s practice before they departed for Detroit, where they’ll face the Red Wings in Game 4 of their Western Conference semifinal series on Thursday night. The Blackhawks have struggled offensively the past two games, in which they have just two goals. That’s not good enough to win many games, and especially against the Wings.
Sharp said he’s fine with wherever he plays.
“That’s up to Joel. He has a good feel for the team, mixing and matching players,” he said. “You’ve seen that in the past. I’ll play wherever he puts me and I trust he knows the right combination.”
Quenneville said they’ll consider all options regarding who’s lining up with who.
“We’ll look at them going on here, whether we fluctuate or loosen things up,” he said. “We didn’t give up a whole lot but we didn’t generate a ton. We certainly had more offensive zone time.”
The point, however, is doing something with that zone time, no matter what the line combinations. The Blackhawks had a great deal of it early in the second period in Game 3, when they had the Wings hemmed in for more than three minutes. They got few shots off, however, as the Blackhawks stayed more around the perimeter than attacking. That has to change.
“They block you out going to the net; we have to find a way to get there,” Quenneville said. “Traveling in that tough area, you have to be willing to get there and make sure we’re in that sight line of the puck.”
Hossa said the Wings have done well in bottling up the Blackhawks. Adjust
“They’re doing an extremely good job defensively. They’re playing well in their zone, and we have to find a way to get inside,” he said. “I felt we had some good chances, and it was too bad on the disallowed goal. But give them credit. We have to find a way to get inside.”
The Blackhawks will probably roll out this latest little wrinkle tomorrow night at Joe Louis Arena. All six players are familiar with each other, so there’s no concern of chemistry, adjusting, etc. The concern is lack of goals. And one way or another, the Blackhawks need to find the right combination to get them.
“We had some bounces (in Game 3), had three posts or crossbars and a disallowed goal. But quality’s going to come from the traffic and second opportunities,” Quenneville said. “It doesn’t have to be a pretty goal because they’ve been checking well. We have to be determined in those areas. When one or two slide through, that’s what we’ve got to look for. But the pretty goals aren’t going to be there.”