Chicago Blackhawks: 3rd Line Is an Odd Combination That Has Clicked
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The Chicago Blackhawks third line is certainly made up of some strange bedfellows. I certainly wouldn't have figured to see a Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw and Viktor Stalberg trio entering the 2013 season.
The funny thing is that it's worked so far. Pretty well, actually.
Bickell split time between the checking line and the doghouse a season ago. Shaw has an energy-line game and Stalberg is a top-six player without a spot in the top six. There is little to suggest that these three refugees from the land of misfit lines would enjoy such success when cast together.
They are, though.
This group has consistently been tough on the forecheck and created scoring opportunities. Case in point—Chicago's second goal in their 3-2 shootout loss Wednesday night.
Bickell took a pass from Patrick Kane in the opening period, came out of the corner and headed toward the net. As he approached the left goal post, he got the puck out in front of the crease. Shaw was waiting and tied the score 1-1 with a shot over Josh Harding's stick side.
The third line had numerous other chances that, like the Blackhawks, it couldn't quite convert. However, this combination has played well in the first seven games.
Bickell has three assists on the season to go with his goal back on Jan. 26. Stalberg provided the assist to Nick Leddy that won last Sunday's overtime game with the Red Wings.
If Bickell can stay on the aggressive side, the three present some interesting wrinkles. Stalberg's speed opens the ice for his linemates. From the right side, the left-shooting Swede is in good position to find open skaters in front of the net. Shaw is capable of tapping in any rebounds created by his wing men.
Getting some contributions from the teaming of Bickell, Stalberg and Shaw is going to benefit coach Joel Quenneville as he attempts to roll four lines this season. This may not be a traditional grouping, but it's hard to argue with the results.
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