Blackhawks' new-look fourth line has found instant chemistry
Hawks' new-look fourth line has found instant chemistry originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Despite the roster being stripped down and injuries continuing to pile up, the Blackhawks have found ways to stay competitive even after the trade deadline. They did it again on Thursday by knocking off the red-hot Nashville Predators 2-1 at Bridgestone Arena.
Luke Richardson deserves a ton of credit for the job he's done as the head coach this season. But one of the biggest reasons why the Blackhawks have had some recent success is the play of the new-look fourth line, which has found instant chemistry.
In Thursday's win over Nashville, the line of Joey Anderson, Boris Katchouk and Jujhar Khaira logged the second-most minutes of any line at even strength for the Blackhawks, per Natural Stat Trick. And they were easily the most effective trio going, with Anderson scoring what originally looked like the insurance goal in the third period but instead turned out to be the game-winner.
When the three of them were on the ice together, the Blackhawks had a +11 shot attempt differential and a +6 scoring chance differential. When the other three lines were on the ice, the Blackhawks had a -21 shot attempt differential and a -10 scoring chance differential.
"The line of Khaira, Boris and Anderson were unbelievable again," Richardson told reporters. "They really gave us a lot of energy all night. All three of them were involved in the penalty kill. And they scored a really nice goal to give us that cushion in the third period.
"A lot of the times during the game, they had great tracking and pace and turned pucks over. We've been working on that and it was a good example for the other lines, for us coaches to say on the bench to watch it so they can go out and follow that."
It wasn't just a one-game flash, either.
Anderson, Katchouk and Khaira have now played with each other for 10 games. In the 77:18 of ice time together, they have five goals for and only one against.
The underlying metrics are even better. The Blackhawks are controlling 54.9 percent of the shot attempts and 60.3 percent of the scoring chances when they're on the ice together. Not only are they defending well, but they're generating chances, too.
"They're both great guys and their style of play is very similar," Anderson said. "We go out there and keep it simple, keep playing in front of us and makes it really easy to read each other. And obviously we all have a focus on being good defensively, which helps. So even if maybe we're not having a great offensive night or possession night, we’re really not giving up a whole lot of good chances against, which is big. Just playing the same way helps a lot."
You will take that any day of the week from your fourth line, although I'm not even sure we should call them that anymore. After the three-game road trip in Detroit, Florida and Tampa Bay, Richardson promoted them to the third line and moved the recently-recalled Mike Hardman and Buddy Robinson to the fourth line with MacKenzie Entwistle.
Over the last five games, Anderson, Katchouk and Khaira have combined for five goals and 10 assists:
Anderson: 3 goals, 2 assists
Katchouk: 2 goals, 3 assists
Khaira: 5 assists
Just dynamite stuff.
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