PHOENIX The Blackhawks lines rolled out at their respective times, each doing its part against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday, then the Phoenix Coyotes on Sunday. Some scored. Some defended. But all played good, effective minutes.
It was enough to get Marian Hossa reminiscing.
Right now, it feels like 2010.
The Blackhawks have been yearning to get four lines going again since that Stanley Cup-winning season. And in their first two games, theyve been getting them. Everyone is playing, everyone is contributing in some fashion. And that four-line effort gave the Blackhawks two victories on that opening road trip out West.
We have the four lines going. Its only two games, but I feel good about us rolling four lines, Hossa said. Everyones more energized instead of playing two or three lines and getting tired.
Sure, every team wants four lines going. But in this frenetic 48-game season, the more that can occur the better off a team will be. On training camps opening day, coach Joel Quenneville stated it was a must in the abbreviated season. And whether its his new combinations, the familiarity players have with each other or the fact everyones so happy to be playing again, hes getting it.
Just like he did three seasons ago. That Cup-winning squad had been building and getting familiar with each others style for a few seasons. It all came together that year when their talent and familiarity allowed for four lines rolling consistently. This seasons team didnt change much from last year, so players are once again getting comfortable with each other. And its showing in the lines.
The 2010 team had four lines we were rotating; everybody was going. Thats what were talking about this season, Quenneville said. I like how all our players are capable of playing together and playing against anyone. Especially on the road, we trust everybody out there. I like the depth; well probably get challenged with it, but itll help us.
The time-on-ice numbers say it all for the Blackhawks. Fourth-liner Brandon Bollig had the lowest TOI tally of 5 minutes, 40 seconds, but probably wouldve had more if not for his fight with Coyotes forward Paul Bissonnette. The rest of the Blackhawks forwards had 10 minutes or more each. Brandon Saad, in his season debut, had 13:31 with top liners Jonathan Toews and Hossa.
The numbers dont lie; the four lines were rolling on a weekend when the Blackhawks needed to conserve energy, needed everybody to be involved. In turn, theyve been fresher, and have capitalized on plenty of scoring chances. The Blackhawks have 11 goals in their first two games; 15 of the 20 skaters who played in the first two games have at least one point.
The cores been here for a while; we know each other and how its going to be, center Dave Bolland said. And with other guys who have come in, weve bonded pretty quick to adapt to what we have to do.
Quenneville said, Guys want the puck. We have good speed in our team game right now. Weve had some odd-man breaks, had some fortunate luck around the net. You look at how hard it was to score against (the Coyotes) in the playoffs and tonight they went in.
The Blackhawks got off to the start they wanted. Theyre getting more consistent contributions across the board. And theyre getting a sense that this 2013 group, right now, has that 2010 feel to it.
We need all four lines rolling. And we have the team that can do that, whether were down or up (on the scoreboard), Bolland said. We have a great team, with great depth.