Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville isn't shy about scrambling his forward lines. Throughout his tenure with the 'Hawks, the veteran coach has earned a well-deserved reputation as a man who will tinker with line combinations.
Quenneville has successfully injected life into his lineup in the playoffs by sliding skaters around his top six. Bryan Bickell has been the surprise of the postseason and has been very effective on the top line. Patrick Kane exploded for four goals when brought up to play with Bickell and captain Jonathan Toews.
One would think Quenneville would go with what has worked heading into Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final with the Boston Bruins. That may not be the case if we put any stock into his practice lines Tuesday.
The Blackhawks came out in the following lines, according to ESPNChicago.com's Twitter account:
- Patrick Sharp, Toews, Marian Hossa
- Patrick Kane, Michal Handzus, Bickell
- Andrew Shaw, Dave Bolland, Brandon Saad
- Michael Frolik, Marcus Kruger, Brandon Bollig
Obviously, that's a lot to discuss. It also could be a complete waste of time. Quenneville may just be giving his opposition something to think about. For the sake of argument, let's pretend that these lines hold up Wednesday.
First off, Quenneville separates Kane and Toews. It is a bit surprising that he would mess with his best line of recent games. However, the Sharp-Toews-Hossa combo might better handle the physical checking unit Boston is sure to employ.
Perhaps Quenneville is looking to keep Kane away from Zdeno Chara in the first two games at the United Center. Sending Bickell to do some dirty work with Handzus gives a measure of protection to Kane on the second line, though it would be nice to see Kane paired with a quicker center.
Bolland back on the third line suggests that Quenneville is prepared to throw that line at Boston's top line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton. This is the Bruins' most productive line by a wide margin. Bolland and company could turn the whole series if he can somehow channel the defensive beast of past postseasons.