Blackhawks Notebook: Who's No. 1?
Imagine for a moment you are an NHL defenseman. Given the choice, which line would you rather see rushing toward you at crunch time: one fronted by Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp, or a second one led by Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa? It’s a coin flip, and whichever side lands facing up is still dangerous and capable of putting a lot of points on the board.
As the Blackhawks near the 10-game mark for the season, this is the question that the team’s opponents are facing night in and night out, and both lines are producing at a solid clip. What many consider to be the Blackhawks’ top line of Andrew Brunette, Toews and Sharp, has recorded a total of 9 goals in 8 games, and includes the team’s leading goal scorer (Sharp) and points leader (Toews) from last season. Meanwhile, the other contains two point-per-game players (Kane and Hossa) with a penachant for highlight-reel goals.
In the locker room, however, no one seems to care which line is 1 and which is 1A, as long as the team continues to earn points, which it has done in each of the past seven games.
“Every game is different; there are different matchups when you see one line does better than the other line,” Patrick Sharp said after Wednesday’s team workout. “But you can put 1-A, -B and -C with Bolland’s line in there, as well. It doesn’t really matter who is producing on a nightly basis as long as somebody is producing.”
“It seems like it’s been lines one, two, three and four have each stepped up in certain games and taken over a little bit,” agreed Patrick Kane. “It’s nice to have that balance on the lines, and it can be any line’s game on a given night. We’re seeing that from everyone.”
While Kane’s line includes a pair of playmakers, an important ingredient has been the addition of Daniel Carcillo, who Kane says gives opponents one more thing to think about when his line takes the ice.
“He brings a lot of energy and he’s got a lot of personality,” said Kane. “He’s good for us because teams are a little more worried about him than they are about us. He played with guys like [Mike] Richards and [Jeff] Carter in Philadelphia; I knew there was some point this season where I’d be matched up with him.”
And it shows: when Kane’s spin-o-rama pass found Hossa’s stick Tuesday night, it was largely due to the fact that Carcillo drew a pair of Anaheim’s defenders away from the action, Hossa said.
“Danny Carcillo did an excellent job taking two guys with him," Hossa said Tuesday night. "It opened up for the easiest goal I could get.”
While internally, there is no jockeying for line “ranking,” there are of course the occasional joking jabs. Until Tuesday night, Sharp says he joked with Kane how he was leading the Blackhawks in both points and penalty minutes. Following Kane’s two-point night – resulting in a tie at the top of that list – Sharp says he’s setting his sights on another team lead.
“I was on top for a while there in penalty minutes, but Jammer (Jamal Mayers) is catching up with me – maybe I’ll take another 10 and drop the gloves or something.”