Bryan Bickell finished with a sliding backhand, a shot not normally in his repertoire. Viktor Stalberg, received a great pass from Johnny Oduya and sent another nice one Bickell’s way. And Andrew Shaw’s hit on Torrey Mitchell behind the net led to the whole sequence’s start.
The Chicago Blackhawks’ third line has been a steady presence all regular season. On Tuesday night it was an especially noticeable one. That line’s work led to the game-winning goal and the Blackhawks’ 1-0 Western Conference quarterfinal series lead over the Minnesota Wild. And with successful playoff teams needing contributions from everyone, the Blackhawks are off to a good start with the third line’s work.
“(Stalberg’s) been great all year. He uses his speed so well and creates a lot with it,” Brent Seabrook said. “Bicks scoring last night was big for the group but for him as well. It gives him confidence. He can take over a game sometimes when he’s playing well.”
The three have developed a chemistry that’s basically lasted all season, and they have their niches. Stalberg, of course, is the speedster. Bickell, who said he worked on his skating in Europe during the lockout, has shown more speed to go with his physical side. Shaw, also physical, just plays that gritty game.
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“We all play similar; we play a cycle game and get pucks behind their D,” Shaw said. “(Stalberg and Bickell) have big bodies and throw them around. It’s been working for us and we’re going to stick to it.”
Good idea. On a night when the Blackhawks were finally showing a physical presence, the third line combined for 12 of the team’s 40 hits. Shaw had a team-high seven of them. Captain Jonathan Toews said the trio set a great example.
“That line was doing everything for us last night: hitting, creating chances and scoring. Bicks scored a huge goal obviously, “ he said. “They were setting the tone for everyone else. The way they were playing is how we want all four lines to bring it to the next one. We had a slow start and got better. But we’ll be ready to play the same way that those three did.”
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It’s all about contributing in whatever way you can when you’re a role player. The Blackhawks’ third line did that throughout the regular season. It’s off to a rousing start in the “second” season.
“That’s been a key line for us. It can do different jobs, score goals, check and be physical,” Toews said. “They’re proving they can play a huge role in this one.”