Saturday night in Chicago, the Blackhawks put together their most complete effort of the Stanley Cup Final so far. There was no dominating period like in Game Two, but for close 60 minutes, the Hawks dictated play and remained aggressive. In the end, the Hawks would take Game Five 3-1, and are now one win away from their second Stanley Cup in four seasons.
Unfortunately, the win was a sidenote to what could be a major injury situation for the Blackhawks. Jonathan Toews missed the entire third period, despite remaining on the bench for the entire frame. Many are speculating that Toews suffered a concussion after this hit from Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk. Toews has a long history of concussions, but the fact that he remained on the bench could be a good sign. From all reports, he was trying to convince the coaches and trainers to put him back in the game last night, and was also seen chatting and laughing after the game. Joel Quenneville said he's "hopeful" Toews can play in Monday's Game Six in Boston.
If Toews can't go, let's take a look at some potential line combinations. Obviously, there's no replacing a player like Toews, but Quenneville has a few options.
Scenario 1 - Everyone moves up
If this is the case, I would assume Ben Smith, who's played some center in his career, would get the call of the bench, and the lines would look something like this :
Bickell - Handzus - Kane
Sharp - Shaw / Smith - Hossa
Saad - Shaw / Smith - Stalberg
Kruger - Bolland - Frolik
Scenario 2 - Sharp moves to center
If past history is any indication, this is a pretty unlikely situation. Quenneville has been extremely hesitant to use Sharp as a center since the 2010 season. He's more than capable, and did it successfully during the Hawks' 2010 Cup run. If it does happen, I'd look for Daniel Carcillo or Ben Smith to get the call. Carcillo has shown the ability to play on the top six in the past.
Bickell - Sharp - Kane / Hossa
Saad /Carcillo - Handzus - Kane / Hossa
Saad/Smith - Shaw - Stalberg
Kruger - Bolland - Frolik
Scenario 3 - Complete mix up of lines...vets pick up the slack.
While Toews is known for his scoring, his defensive game is just as important and just as dominant. With that in mind, Dave Bolland's line could get a boost in minutes as they become the default shut down line. I still see Ben Smith as the call up here, playing center or wing.
There is obviously no replacing Toews, and none of these lineups are ideal, but the Hawks have the depth and positional flexibility to overcome his absence if he can't go. I still think there's a better than average shot that Toews plays. Knowing him, he will do everything he can to be in the lineup. If he is truly concussed, it's important for him to think about his future in hockey, the organization's future, and his long term health and well being. Hopefully the Hawks handle this situation correctly, and protect their franchise player.
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Filed under: Blackhawks, Boston Bruins, Brandon Bollig, bryan bickell, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Sports, Dan Carcillo, daniel carcillo, dave bolland, hockey, jay zawaski, jonathan toews, marian hossa, michael frolik, Michael Handzus, michal rozsival, NHL, nhl playoffs, Patrick Kane, sports, stanley cup, Stanley Cup Final, stanley cup finals, wscr