For several games now Jonathan Toews’ glances to line mates have been to the same players: Nick Schmaltz to his left and Richard Panik to his right. The same guys for more than a game or two. Not bad, really.
“It makes a world of difference,” Toews said. “We were talking on the bench and we had a couple of goals midway through the game [on Wednesday]. We got that confidence going and we want to build on it and not just sit around and be OK with it.”
When the Blackhawks make changes it’s usually to provide a spark or get more of a four-line rotation. But there’s something to be said for familiarity, and especially giving your captain a chance to have some of that. Schmaltz, Toews and Panik, first put together on Feb. 2 against the Arizona Coyotes, have started to click. After each scored a goal in the Blackhawks’ victory over Minnesota, the three combined for six points in the team’s 5-1 triumph over Edmonton on Saturday night.
Panik said giving the three a chance to figure things out has been beneficial.
“Sometimes it happens overnight when you click with someone and the chemistry’s there. Sometimes you have to work on it, watch videos and talk about plays. That’s what we were trying to do, just talk to each other and figure out where we should be,” Panik said. “So it’s started working the last couple of games so we’ll just keep doing it.”
It’s also about knowing how and when to feed off each other, when to be selfish and when to give up the puck. When Schmaltz went to the top line the concern was him passing to Toews too often instead of taking his own opportunities. Schmaltz has fallen into that trap now and then but he’s also has not been shy about calling for the puck, as he did to Toews for his fourth goal of the season on Wednesday.
“[We talk] a lot, especially on our goal there. He told me he didn’t even see me, he just heard me and kind of threw it to that area,” Schmaltz said. “Communication is huge and the more we talk, you just know if you have pressure, if you have time, stuff like that. We’ll keep talking and keep building the chemistry.”
The top line’s budding chemistry benefits the Blackhawks overall, but especially Toews. In his last five games, Toews has two goals and five assists.
As Panik said, you can’t always assume chemistry will be there right way. The Blackhawks’ latest top line was given a chance to formulate some and they’ve done that. They’ve collected some points and confidence, too.
“I think when you start playing well or start getting a feel for what it’s like to play with a couple of line mates you want to continue to build on that confidence… be predictable and make plays and know where everyone is going to be on the ice,” Toews said. “I think we’ll look to keep working on that. Whether they go in or not I think as long as we’re working, we’ll get our chances.”
Blackhawks send four to Rockford
EDMONTON, Alberta – For most of the Blackhawks, this week will be for rest. For some of the team’s younger players, however, it’s time to go back to work.
The Blackhawks sent defenseman Gustav Forsling and forwards Vinnie Hinostroza, Tanner Kero and Nick Schmaltz to the Rockford IceHogs. The IceHogs face Milwaukee today and Cleveland on Wednesday and Saturday.
Additionally, the Blackhawks activated defenseman Michal Rozsival from injured reserve.