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Blackhawks all-2010s lineup challenge: Forwards

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The top three lines were unanimous selections, but what was the best option for the fourth line?

Toronto Maple Leafs v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

The third installment of Second City Hockey’s all-2010s lineup challenge focuses on forwards, with each writer selecting four lines that were used for more than 100 minutes during the regular season or more than 25 minutes in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The top three lines are unanimous, of course, but the fourth line provides some differences.

Brandon

First line

Brandon Saad (2013 regular season stats: 46 GP, 10 G, 17 A, 16:28 ATOI)
Jonathan Toews (2013 regular season stats: 47 GP, 23 G, 25 A, 19:21 ATOI)
Marian Hossa (2013 regular season stats: 40 GP, 17 G, 14 A, 18:02 ATOI)

Line stats: (2013 regular season - 378:04 5-on-5 TOI, 60.35 CF%, 61.43 xGF%; 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs - 123:28 5-on-5 TOI, 68.78% CF%, 70.34 xGF%, 69.23 HDCF%)

This trio was so great not even Carole Baskin could drive them apart if she tried.

Second line

Artemiy Panarin (2015-16 regular season stats: 82 GP, 30 G, 47 A, 18:31 ATOI)
Artem Anisimov (15-16 regular season: 77 GP, 20 G, 22 A, 18:05 ATOI)
Patrick Kane (15-16 regular season: 82 GP, 46 G, 60 A, 20:25 ATOI)

Line stats: (15-16 regular season - 809:49 5-on-5 TOI, 53.38 CF%, 54.79 GF%)

Deciding whether or not to split up Kane and Toews was harder than I originally thought after seeing what numbers (134:49 5-on-5 TOI, 66.17 CF%, 59.37 GF%) the duo had with Panarin during the 2015-16 season. Anisimov was more of a threat with Kane and Panarin, and with a possible Panarin-Toews-Kane line you’d lose a strong top line (Saad-Toews-Hossa), and be unable to find a center for Saad and Hossa.

Third line

Patrick Sharp (2015 playoff stats: 23 GP, 5 G, 10 A, 15:35 ATOI)
Antoine Vermette (2015 playoff stats: 20 GP, 4 G, 3 A, 13:08 ATOI)
Teuvo Teravainen (2015 playoff stats: 18 GP, 4 G, 6 A, 13:28 ATOI)

Line stats: (2015 playoffs - 129:48 5-on-5 TOI, 54.19 CF%, 50.05 xGF%, 55.56 HDCF%)

This is the best line for Sharp given the top two lines and time requirements. It also gives Chicago another great player at the face-off dot with Vermette. That line would bring some “Peaky Blinders” dress-level style to the team as well.

Fourth line

Andrew Ladd (2010 playoff stats: 19 GP, 3 G, 3 A, 12:48 ATOI)
Dave Bolland (2010 playoff stats: 22 GP, 8 G, 8 A, 18:40 ATOI)
Kris Versteeg (2010 playoff stats: 22 GP, 6 G, 8 A, 17:13 ATOI)

Line stats: (2010 playoffs - 129:10 5-on-5 TOI, 45.95 CF%, 41.91 xGF%, 38.46 HDCF%)

Bolland is a must on the fourth line, but what about the other two? Ladd and Versteeg, two of the fun characters from 2010 team, provide a good defensive line with a scoring touch when needed. Versteeg, a rare successful call back, trying to do karaoke with Anisimov and Panarin? да!

I tried my damndest to be different and get that knucklehead Andrew Shaw, who scored the seventh most Blackhawks goals (72) this past decade, in the mix somewhere but couldn’t find a spot for him.

Dave

First line

Saad-Toews-Hossa

Go back and look at those numbers. Over 60 percent in both CF% and xGF% during the regular season. Then, in the playoffs, when everything is supposed to be more difficult, this line was BETTER. They exceeded a 2-to-1 shot attempt advantage (141-64)!! This line probably should’ve been illegal.

Second line

Panarin-Anisimov-Kane

Having Panarin and Kane on opposite sides of the ice, trading passes and one-timers with each other is a sound offensive strategy for any team, hypothetical or not. Not only will this re-create one of the most even-strength potent lines in Blackhawks history, it will also pay significant dividends when power play lineups are determined Friday.

Third line

Sharp-Vermette-Teravainen

It took Joel Quenneville 2.5 playoff rounds to put this line together, but then it was consistently clutch. It produced the overtime GWG in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final and another GWG in Game 1 of the Cup final. You can do a lot worse than this as your third line.

Fourth line

Ladd-Bolland-Versteeg

The original shutdown line, probably still triggering nightmares for the Sedin brothers and Joe Thornton. Although the possession numbers look ugly, consider that this line still held a 5-4 advantage in goals scored during the playoffs while starting in the offensive zone just 31.67 percent of the time. Their effectiveness allowed the Blackhawks scoring lines to run wild.

Matt

First line

Saad-Toews-Hossa

This line was simply unfair. Just having Hossa and Toews together would be a nightmare to defend. Add Saad and you get three players that dominate puck possession, have stellar defensive positioning and elite hockey IQ. They were an absolute privilege to watch.

Second line

Panarin-Anisimov-Kane

This is just one of the many examples of the offensive juggernaut that Anisimov, Kane and Panarin generated almost every game during the 2015-16 regular season.

Kane and Panarin were offensive wizards together, while Anisimov did the dirty work in the corners or in front of the net to give Panarin and Kane some space with the puck to set up a scoring chance.

Third line

Sharp-Vermette-Teravainen

A savvy veteran sniper, a trade deadline acquisition and an exciting rookie made for an impressive third line late in the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs and especially in the Stanley Cup Final. Sharp and Vermette played a vital role in giving Teravainen confidence, an opportunity to show off his potential on a massive stage and kickstarting his NHL career.

Fourth line

Dustin Byfuglien (2010 playoff stats: 22 GP, 11 G, 5 A, 16:16 ATOI)
Bolland
Versteeg

Line stats: (2010 Stanley Cup playoffs: 29:34 5-on-5 TOI, 56.0 CF%, 31.6 xGF%, 20.0 HDCF%)

Although the possession metrics look poor, the trio of Bolland, Byfuglien and Versteeg played an integral role in the Blackhawks’ victories over the Flyers in Games 5 and 6 of the 2010 Cup Final. The line combined for 28 shot attempts, five takeaways and 16 hits, including a monster hit from Byfuglien on Chris Pronger that became a turning point in the series.

One of the Joel Quenneville’s greatest strengths was his ability to juggle around lines, create trios that one would never think of and have them dominate. In this case, Quenneville found a line that got under the Flyers’ skin, especially Pronger, at the perfect time. It was a pivotal decision that helped the Blackhawks end their 49-year Cup drought.

If you’d like to reminisce and enjoy Byfuglien’s four-point effort in Game 5 and the relentless forecheck from him and his linemates, Versteeg and Bolland, you can watch the full replay here.

2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Six

Shepard

First line

Saad-Toews-Hossa

The most dominant two-way force the Blackhawks could muster at the peak of their power, you’re not going to do a ton against this line either offensively or defensively. It’s the Chicago version of perhaps the best line in hockey today in Boston’s David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. You can put this line out at any aspect of the game and they would do well.

Second line

Panarin-Anisimov-Kane

With a two-way line ahead of them able to take on opposing top lines and a great defensive group behind them, allowing one of the best scoring trios the Blackhawks have assembled during the past decade to flourish offensively without defensive concern completes the dream top six.

Would I rather have somebody else center Panarin and Kane? Yes, but a boat anchor could center Panarin and Kane when they were together and score 35 points.

Third line

Sharp-Vermette-Teravainen

This line was mostly composed for the 2015 playoffs, but the Blackhawks likely don’t win their sixth Cup without it. They scored some crucial goals, especially in the later rounds, and it allows both Sharp and Teravainen to find a place on the all-decade team with a complete unit.

There also likely wasn’t a better faceoff man in the past decade for the Blackhawks than the three months they had with Vermette. I’m still low-key rooting for him to be the next face-off coach for Chicago.

Fourth line

Michael Frolik: (2013 regular season stats: 45 GP, 3 G, 7 A, 12:31 ATOI)
Bolland
Marcus Kruger: (2013 regular season stats: 47 GP, 4 G, 9 A, 14:10 ATOI)

Line stats (2013 playoffs: 105:49 5-on-5 TOI, 45.8 CF%, 47.3 xGF%, 50 HDCF%)

With three high-impact scoring lines on the top three lines, the Blackhawks don’t have a ton of penalty-killing talent and lack a true shut-down line. The unit of Frolik-Bolland-Kruger, brought together for the 2013 playoffs, accomplishes both goals. There was likely not a better Blackhawks penalty-killing duo during the past decade than Kruger-Frolik, and the three were able to move the puck better than given credit for, given their heavy usage in the defensive zone.

Plus, they were on ice for one of the best Blackhawks goals of the past decade. You know the one: