Blackhawks not finding offensive balance

May, 25, 2014
May 25
12:27
AM PT
Jonathan Quick, Marian HossaJeff Gross/Getty ImagesMarian Hossa and Jonathan Toews, right, haven't gotten much help after their line departs.

LOS ANGELES -- The Chicago Blackhawks have often leaned on their offensive depth to get them past opponents, particularly in the playoffs.

The Blackhawks have relied upon everyone from their stars to their role players, and from their first to their fourth lines to give them production in the past.

The Blackhawks aren’t getting that across-the-board help through three games against the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference finals, and that is part of the reason why they’re facing a 2-1 series deficit.

“We have four lines that can score and we’ve got to show it,” Blackhawks forward Michal Handzus said after Saturday’s 4-3 loss in Game 3.

Chicago's top line has done its job: Bryan Bickell, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa have been solid offensively and defensively. They have kept Marian Gaborik, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown in check, and they’ve been creating offensive chances for themselves.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Kruger, Alec Martinez, Tanner Pearson
AP Photo/Chris CarlsonMarcus Kruger and his mates on the fourth line took a beating in the Hawks' Game 3 loss.
The possession numbers indicate that the Blackhawks’ top line has had the puck much more than the Kings' in the series. Bickell has a 64.1 Corsi percentage; the Blackhawks have had 41 shots for and 23 shots against with him on the ice in 5-on-5 situations in the series, according to extraskater.com. Hossa has had a 61.6 Corsi percentage (45 shots for, 28 against) and Toews has had a 60 Corsi percentage (48 shots for, 32 against.)

Chicago has scored eight goals in the series. Two have come on the power play, one short-handed, one with the goalie pulled and four at even strength. Chicago's top line has accounted for two of the four even-strength goals.

The Blackhawks’ other lines haven’t been keeping up. Ben Smith on the fourth line scored a goal in Game 2, and defenseman Duncan Keith scored with the second line on the ice in Game 1. The three other lines’ possession numbers have fluctuated as well.

Chicago's second line of Patrick Sharp, Handzus and Patrick Kane struggled the most in Game 3. Handzus had a team-worst 27.7 Corsi percentage (five shots for, 12 against), followed by Sharp at 30.4 percent (7 for, 16 against) and Kane at 30.8 percent (8 for, 18 against). For the series, Handzus has a 36 Corsi percentage (18 for, 32 against), Sharp a 30.9 (21 shots for, 47 against) and Kane has a 43.5 (30 shots for, 39 against).

The Blackhawks’ third line did fare better with Andrew Shaw in the lineup Saturday; it had been among the team's worst possession lines during the first two games. When together, the fourth line of Brandon Bollig, Marcus Kruger and Smith turned in a Corsi below 50 percent in Game 3.

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said he would reexamine his lines after Saturday’s loss, but he wasn’t sure whether they needed much fine-tuning.

“We'll look at our lines,” Quenneville said. “We look at basically nine periods there, seven of them pretty good, pretty effective as far as what we've been doing, as far as chances, generating what we're looking to do. They've had two big third periods on us. That's the difference in being down 2-1.

“We can look at the lines. I don't know if we got to shake them up too much.”
Scott Powers is a general reporter for ESPNChicago.com. He is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997.

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