The Blackhawks have 10 Olympians on their playoff roster for the Western Conference finals, and Kings second-liners Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson are owning them. Owning every shift. Owning this series.
Carter and young wingers kids are killing the Hawks with speed and talent. The "That '70s Show" line, so-called because all three skaters wear sweater numbers in the 70's, scored two goals in the Kings’ 4-3 win in Game 3 on Saturday night, and, man, the way they did it.
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After a neutral-zone turnover, Toffoli scored the go-ahead goal on a breakaway from the Hawks blue line when Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson couldn’t catch him.
To recap, that’s muscle, speed and scoring that the Hawks don’t have right now.
But it’s not just scoring with Carter’s line. Pearson saved icing by outracing supposed No. 2 defenseman Seabrook to a puck late in the third period, forcing the Hawks to waste about 40 valuable seconds they would need in a game they would cut to one goal.
Carter and the kids are dangerous every shift. That’s supposed to be the Hawks’ game, but the Hawks are getting pantsed.
Carter and the kids had five points in Game 3 and have amassed 15 in this series. They give the Kings a second line they didn’t have against the Hawks last year.
Handzus between Kane and Sharp is a mess. The three Olympians couldn’t manage one shot in the first period. That’s zero shots from a line with PATRICK KANE, ALL CAPS on it.
Sharp finished with a meaningless goal on four shots. Kane managed three shots. Handzus fell down a lot.
Handzus has killed Kane’s production all season. Sharp has three goals in 15 playoff games. But yet, Joel Quenneville continues to send that line over the boards. Isn’t a coach supposed to put his players in the best position to succeed?
This can't continue. Even as blindly as Quenneville loves Handzus and the way he wins faceoffs, this line is useless. Any line is useless with Handzus, who's too old and slow and not good for anything except faceoffs and penalty killing.
The Hawks' best forwards are Toews and Hossa. Split them up to make other players better, make other players dangerous. Put Kane with Toews and Bickell the way the Hawks did last year and in the process, destroyed the Kings. Put Hossa with Sharp and Andrew Shaw. That way, your top two lines have skating, passing, net presence and scoring, which you can't say when Handzus is involved.
Quenneville finally wised up and yanked Handzus, putting Ben Smith between Kane and Sharp, but that was in the third period and after more than 50 minutes had been wasted. A game had been wasted.
Four power plays had been wasted, too. Hawks special teams are blowing this series right along with the rumor that is the second line. The Hawks blew four power plays Saturday night and seven of eight in the last two losses.
The penalty-killing, meanwhile, has gone from strength to death wish. The Hawks allowed one official power-play goal, but also gave up another score two seconds after a penalty to an amazingly stupid Rozsival ended.
Special teams matter, don’t get me wrong. But special teams won’t consistently hide a 5-on-5 game that consists of the Toews line and nothing else. The Hawks are supposed to have more world-class players. The Kings are the ones who are playing like it. The Hawks coach who loves to play toy soldiers had better start playing that game now.