There's no denying that the Chicago Blackhawks are one of the best offensive teams in the NHL. They currently rank second in the league at 3.59 goals per game and are second in shots per game at 33.2. With all the firepower they have on offense, the Blackhawks pose a challenge to any team they face. They often win their games by scoring four, five or even six goals, making it extremely difficult for anyone to beat them. However, when they have an off night or run into a hot goaltender, the Blackhawks really struggle to win those low-scoring games. If the Blackhawks' goaltending isn't going to get better, they must rely on their offense to win the majority of games for them. So what happens when their offense can't produce? They usually lose.
The Blackhawks have really struggled finding the back of the net in the new year. They have lost three of their last four games, only once scoring more than two goals in a game. That is a very uncharacteristic stat for the Blackhawks and there has to be a reason for it. Well, there is. The second line hasn't been producing lately. In the last 11 goals the Blackhawks have scored, the second line has only produced one goal. That's right, a line featuring Patrick Kane, who is currently tied for second in the NHL with 54 points, has only produced one goal in the team's last 11 scored. Kane himself has gone four of the last five games without a point and has fallen 11 points behind Sidney Crosby for the scoring lead. So what's gotten into the second line? There is a problem at center and that problem is Michal Handzus.
Michal Handzus has been centering the second line for most of the season. In 29 games this year, Handzus has four goals and six assists. He has failed to record a point in each of his last six games and has only recorded three shots on net in those games. Handzus is strong in the face off circle and he helps out on defense, but he has almost become a liability for the Blackhawks. He doesn't have great speed and he has basically been absent most of the year in terms of impact.
Coach Joel Quenneville has noticed this drop in production and he's willing to try something new. He announced today that forward Marcus Kruger would be placed on the second line and replace Handzus as the second line center for the team's upcoming game against Montreal on Saturday. It is unknown how long the switch will last or if it will work at all, but it is definitely worth a shot.
Marcus Kruger has four goals and 14 assists in 46 games this season. He excels in the face off circle and is one of the Blackhawks' best defensive forwards. Kruger's speed and hustle make him a big asset to this team and his presence is often felt. With the addition of Kruger on the second line, it will provide Patrick Kane with more scoring chances in the offensive end. Kruger is great at forcing turnovers and often forces opponents to make poor decisions based on his hustle. His intensity will free up some space for Kane and allow him to work his magic.
It's only a matter of time before Patrick Kane gets going again and we think that this is exactly what he needs. Let's hope Kruger can reignite the second line and help the Blackhawks get back in the win column.
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