Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Quenneville trusts Handzus on second line
By Scott Powers
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville never anticipated Michal Handzus to be his second-line center when the veteran was acquired around the trade deadline last season.
Michal Handzus moved back to the second line for Sunday's Game 5.
Handzus was initially seen as a role player and someone who could provide the Blackhawks additional depth. But in time, Quenneville discovered he could use Handzus for more than that. Handzus was vaulted to the second line during the playoffs last season and remained there for much of the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup run.
A season later, Quenneville has bounced Handzus around on different roles in the playoffs, but he's now gone back to him as the team's second-line center. Ultimately, it's about trust to Quenneville, and he trusts Handzus, especially in his defensive game.
"I thought he's played very well in the games he's played here," Quenneville said prior to Game 6 against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday. "I think he was a big part of our success here in the playoffs last season. He seems to rise to that challenge. You get matchups you're a little bit comfortable in the defensive side of things and big body and smart player."
Handzus was moved back to the second line from the fourth line in Game 5 on Sunday. He played 19:33, which was the most ice time he's been given since playing 25:55 in Game 1 against the St. Louis Blues in the first round. He hadn't played more than 12:58 in the previous four games against the Wild.
Handzus welcomes the added responsibility, but he's tried to be a team player no matter what role he's been given.
"I thought I've always done that throughout my career," the 37-year-old Handzus said on Tuesday. "Obviously, you want to play a lot of minutes and you want to score goals, but that's not always how it works out. You have to help the team as much as you can, either on the fourth line, PK, second line, it doesn't matter. I'm just happy to help the team."
In his current role, Handzus believes the key is getting the puck to his line mates Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, creating space for them, being defensively responsible and winning faceoffs. He won 12-of-20 faceoffs in Game 5. He also had zero points, a minus-1 rating and a 46.4 Corsi percentage (the Blackhawks had 13 shots for and 15 against with him on the ice in 5-on-5 situations.)
"I've just got to play well, and I've got to play defensively, play with the puck," Handzus said. "I know what I need to do. It's matter of doing it. I've been there this year, too, last year, so I know what I need to do to help."