Blackhawks hope for many reunion memories
BY MARK LAZERUS firstname.lastname@example.org May 22, 2013 11:04PM
Updated: June 24, 2013 2:08PM
Everyone in the dressing room seemed to agree that it made sense to put Dave Bolland back at third-line center when he returned from a groin injury for the second round. That’s where he’s played the best hockey of his career, particularly in the playoffs.
But for the three guys who’ve comprised that line all year — Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw and Viktor Stalberg — it made even more sense to stay together. And with the Bolland experiment lasting all of two games before Joel Quenneville moved him back up to the second line, the Hawks’ third line has been reunited, and it feels so good.
“We had a lot of success this year as a line,” Shaw said. “We want to kind of see it through.”
With Stalberg out of Quenneville’s doghouse and back in the lineup, the third line generated many of the Hawks’ best scoring chances — Stalberg hit a crossbar on a mini-breakaway and had an apparent goal disallowed because Shaw was in the crease. With the Detroit Red Wings so focused on — and so successful at — stifling the Hawks’ top two scoring lines, the third line believes it can use its unusual blend and undeniable chemistry to be the difference-maker.
“We played well, we kind of feed off each other,” Stalberg said. “We just keep working hard, grinding teams down. I think we’ve got scoring ability, too, on that line, to make things happen. Sometimes the big boys get the toughest matchup and you kind of get behind there and you get a little easier matchup, and I thought we did a good job taking advantage of that all year long.”
It’s an interesting mix. Bickell brings the size, Shaw brings the agitation, and Stalberg brings the speed. They were kind of thrown together during the five-day post-lockout training camp, but quickly clicked into a unit that wasn’t just defensively responsible — as a checking line has to be — but was surprisingly effective in the offensive zone.
“We’ve got every aspect we need — speed, size, quickness,” Shaw said. “We’re all aggressive in puck areas and we all throw the body around. We just try to get Vik as much room as possible to skate wide and make plays. The chemistry we’ve built over the year has only grown. Every game, I think we get better as a line.”
It’s been Detroit’s third line — a young group consisting of Gustav Nyquist, Damien Brunner and Joakim Andersson — that has been getting the attention, scoring in all three games as the top lines neutralize each other. But with the Hawks in a hole, the Hawks’ third line is hoping to return the favor.
“I think three different styles thrown on one line, sometimes it clashes, sometimes it mixes well,” Bickell said. “This year, we had that good chemistry and a good year. What we did during the regular season, we need to bring back.”