It appears either Ben Smith or Andrew Shaw could move into the No. 2 center role held down by Michal Handzus for the past few games. Each player got a few shifts on the second line in the third period Saturday as Chicago looked for goals. Quenneville believes those two players are more effective offensively than Handzus.
There is, however, an issue when it comes to re-jiggering the forward lines with the Blackhawks. Simply, it is a hesitancy to mess with the top-line unit featuring Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. It has been the Blackhawks’ most effective line at each end of the ice in this series. To tinker with it, which would almost become a necessity if you try to get struggling forwards like Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp going, threatens to damage chemistry.
Ah, yes, the old 2C issue rearing its ugly head again for the Blackhawks. That’s second-line center, to be clear. Handzus went into the playoffs in that role, but the 37-year-old has managed just one goal and one assist in 15 games, with dreadful possession stats to boot.
The ‘Hawks managed to win it all last year with Handzus gamely stepping in to fill the important position, but that didn’t stop a summer of speculation about who could take over for the veteran. Brandon Saad was an option at one point. Same for Shaw, Marcus Kruger, Brandon Pirri and Drew LeBlanc.
General manager Stan Bowman didn’t make a deal at the deadline to address the position, instead stating his belief “in our group here.”
Not that a GM can just snap his fingers and add a top-six center, but expect another summer of 2C talk in Chicago, especially if the ‘Hawks can’t battle back to beat L.A.