The Chicago Blackhawks have started the season with a combined score of 15-2, beating the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Bluejackets. A large part of that success has been the second line comprised of Ryan Hartman, Nick Schmaltz, and Patrick Kane. The trio has combined for a total of 15 points. Nick Schmaltz has failed to finish a game this season. The Blackhawks have reported that Schmaltz will not make the trip to Toronto and Montreal this week, with hopes that he will return on Thursday, Oct. 12, when the Minnesota Wild come calling.
The Schmaltz injury leaves a huge hole in the second line. The easy choice to replace Schmaltz is Artem Anisimov, the second line center for the past two years. However, if the injury to Schmaltz is indeed a minor one that will keep him out for only two games, Anisimov must stay on the third line for two reasons: Kane can produce with any line-mates and the third line needs time to gel.
Kane has proven through the years that he can score no matter the line-mates. In the first two games, he has proven that the loss of Artemi Panarin has no effect on his game. He has scored two goals and has four assists. He, along with Schmaltz, has elevated Ryan Hartman’s game; Hartman also has six points in two outings. Adding Anisimov to the line would surely add some consistency and keep the line clicking, but substituting John Hayden for Schmaltz makes more sense. Hayden is a more natural winger, but very capable of playing center and his physicality will mesh nicely with Kane’s finesse game. Additionally, playing alongside Kane will give Hayden some experience playing with an elite scorer.
Second, keeping Anisimov on the third line with Patrick Sharp and Alex DeBrincat will allow this line to gel and become a better scoring unit. Through two games, this line has accumulated four points, far below their potential. A few more games together and the line should be able to produce more points, especially with young scoring phenom Alex DeBrincat. Strangely enough, the line with the 5’7” 160lb winger is playing a very physical game. DeBrincat has five hits and two blocks through two games. Breaking up this line will delay their growth unnecessarily.
Having seen two smashingly successful games to start the season, Blackhawks fans are nervously awaiting the return of Nick Schmaltz. A simple fill-in to the second line should do the trick until he returns next week.
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