Hawks Load Up Top Line Before Game 5

Quenneville trying to spark team's offense in must-win game

 Desperate times generally call for desperate measures, and Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville seems to be taking that cliché seriously as his team heads into their Game 5 matchup with the Detroit Red Wings.

At the team’s morning skate Saturday morning, Quenneville switched up his lines once again, putting Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane on the top line with Jonathan Toews in an effort to amp up a moribund scoring attack that has only produced two goals in three games.

The question, of course, is whether or not the move will have the intended effect. Toews has been goalless so far in these playoffs, and Sharp and Kane have shown flashes of brilliance but little else as the team has lost three consecutive games. The trio has experienced success together in the past, but in recent months, the three haven’t played together, so it will be interesting to see if their past chemistry can come through.

The good thing for the Hawks is that the Red Wings will not be able to set up ideal matchups against that line, since the Hawks get the right to final line change in the home game. Of course, that is only the case if the Hawks are able to actually win faceoffs and prevent the Wings from changing things up, especially in the offensive zone, but if the first four games of the series are any indication, that assumption is a difficult one to make.

There are also questions then about the rest of the team and how they will shake out. It’s assumed that Marian Hossa will be on the second line, but who would fit best with him? His ability to control the puck even under duress could mean that he would fit with a guy like Viktor Stalberg, who can stretch the ice with his speed, and perhaps use a guy like Andrew Shaw or Michal Handzus at center, who aren’t the greatest facilitators but could allow the other two wingers to roam freely while they keep a close eye on the Wings’ lightning quick transition game.

There is an argument to be made that Quenneville has been tinkering too much (author’s note: I laid out that argument in my column in tonight’s Committed Indian, which you can order here, or get at the Hawks game), but whether you hold that opinion or not, there is no better time to try to load up than in a must-win game.

Only time will tell if it works.

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