How the last two games might influence the Blackhawks’ playoff roster
Photos from the Blackhawks-Avalanche game on April 4, 2017, in Denver.
The Blackhawks roster is mostly set heading into the playoffs.
They have their top six defensemen and are expecting injured center Artem Anisimov back in time for the start of the first round.
There are only two spots coach Joel Quenneville may revise on the imaginary white board in his mind before Game 1 next week – both wingers on the fourth line.
Here’s what the lineup looks like now:
- Nick Schmaltz, Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik on the top line.
- Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane on the second.
- Ryan Hartman, Marian Hossa and either Tanner Kero or Marcus Kruger at center on the third line while the fourth line will feature either Kero or Kruger with an unknown cast at winger.
So while the last two games won’t affect the Hawks’ in the standings, they are a de facto audition for playoff playing time for some forwards at the bottom of the roster.
"Of course it’s tough," forward Dennis Rasmussen said. "We have a really good team. We have a deep team and all the guys can play in different situations and different positions. It really helps the competition and the team."
Rasmussen is one of six forwards vying for those two spots; the others are veterans Jordin Tootoo, Andrew Desjardins and Tomas Jurco and rookies Vinnie Hinostroza and John Hayden.
Quenneville is giving all six playing time to see who stands out this week. On Sunday, Tootoo, Rasmussen and Hayden got the call with Rasmussen at center. On Tuesday, it was Hinostroza and Jurco with Desjardins at center.
"We’re still having decisions to make," Quenneville said. "There could be some movement as we’re going along, but there will be some competition and decision making as far as watching them play and what our options are based on opponents."
From goals to assists to wins to games played, Blackhawks players have achieved a multitude of career milestones during the 2016-17 season.
Potential matchups based on the Hawks’ first-round opponent will also play a factor in who sees the ice, but if somebody stands out over the next two games, it would be hard for Quenneville to keep him out.
Tootoo said the group won’t let the competition hurt the team.
"When there’s that negativity you feel it in the dressing room," Tootoo said. "Come playoff time we don’t need that. This is a group of guys that are probably one of the tightest groups I’ve been on and you look at it from the top down — our core group of guys are really engaged."
From this perspective, the Hawks are in better shape than they were a season ago, especially considering their top three lines feature seven players who have scored 19 goals or more.
"You’re getting contributions from all over the place," Toews said. "You want to give credit to guys like ‘Desi’ and ‘Toots’ who have been in and out of the lineup but they always seem so well prepared, ready to go and ready to do the right things not only on the ice, but being vocal in the room and on the bench and being an integral part of this locker room.
"It’s a huge reason why we have been successful."
But not all of them will get to play in the Hawks’ quest for postseason success.