Cumiskey in, Rundblad out for Game 2

10-171460575-smallDuring today’s practice, Joel Quenneville had Kyle Cumiskey skating on the Blackhawks’ third defensive pairing with Johnny Oduya in place of David Rundblad. Rundblad made his playoff debut in Game 1, but it didn’t go so well for him as he was one the ice and partially responsible for two of the Ducks’ four goals.

This lineup change shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who has followed the Blackhawks closely. Quenneville has been known to tweak his lineup when things aren’t going well. That’s not to say that things literally aren’t going well for the Hawks (they played a solid first game of the series), but David Rundblad had a tough time adjusting to the uptempo, playoff style of hockey in Game 1; his first career postseason game. Therefore he is being replaced.

While this will also be Cumiskey’s first playoff game of the spring, there is reason to be a little optimistic about his presence in the lineup.

What Cumiskey brings is speed. At five feet, eleven inches tall, he’s not the biggest or strongest guy on the ice, but he is one of the fastest. In a series like this against a quick team in Anaheim, the more speed on the back end, the better. One way to think of Cumiskey is by thinking of Nick Leddy. Remember him? Good. Nick Leddy is one of the fastest skating defenseman in the NHL. While with the Hawks, Leddy was a key component of the Blackhawks’ fast paced style of play. He would regularly carry the puck up the ice himself and get it into the offense zone where the forwards would take over. The Hawks have always been a better team when their d-men can be quick with the puck and skate it into the offensive end.

I’m not saying that Kyle Cumiskey is another Nick Leddy, because he’s not. But if Cumiskey can be that extra speed on the back end that the Hawks have somewhat lacked this season, then that’s a good thing. Duncan Keith has been the fastest blue liner on the ice for the Hawks, and he’s really the only one who can and will carry the puck up the ice and into the offensive zone. If Cumiskey can provide at least a little bit of the same, that should only play into the hands of the style of hockey that the Blackhawks like the most. They are most effective while playing a fast, north-south brand of hockey.

I guess the only big question with Cumiskey is his defensive responsibility. Can he be reliable in the Hawks’ defensive zone and not lose his man in front of the net or turn the puck over? Again, his quickness should only help him cover more ground in the Hawks’ own end, but his decision making will have to be on par. The problem with Rundblad that resulted in Cumiskey being inserted into the lineup is that Rundblad seems incapable of making quick decisions. He’ll hold the puck too long before passing, or he’ll decide to try and thread the needle with a pass instead of making the simple play and clearing the zone.

While it looks right now as though the Hawks’ defensive pairings will be Keith-Hjalmarsson, Timonen-Seabrook, Oduya-Cumiskey, I wouldn’t expect those to stick. Quenneville has continuously switched up the d-pairings mid-game this postseason, and I see no reason why that would change now. Cumiskey should see more ice time than Rundblad, but whether or not that ends up happening remains to be seen. If he does, then the Blackhawks will be back to using basically five and a half defenseman like they were before the Rozsival injury.

Game 2 is a big one for the Hawks. Coming home tied 1-1 in the series is much different than being down 2-0. Given how well the Blackhawks have played at home this postseason, heading home 1-1 could give them a big advantage.

Blackhawks reassign Teravainen; Recall Hartman, Cumiskey

IMG_1999-0Earlier this evening, the Blackhawks announced that they had sent top prospect Teuvo Teravainen back to the Rockford Icehogs of the AHL. In return, they called up 2013 number one draft pick, Ryan Hartman (right winger), and 28 year old defenseman Kyle Cumiskey. Cumiskey has been seeing playing time in the NHL on and off since the 2007-08 season, while also playing a number of games in the AHL. He played 4 preseason games with the Hawks this year before getting sent to Rockford for the start of the season.

So what does this all mean?

Well, with the return of Kris Versteeg to the Hawks’ lineup, someone had to leave it. Nordstrom was sent down to make room on the roster for Versteeg, and now Teravainen has been sent down to make room for Versteeg in the everyday lineup. While most of us would love to see Carcillo be the one to lose his spot in the lineup, that’s not happening. At least not right now. It is believed that the Hawks ultimately want Teravainen as part of their top nine forwards. With Versteeg now back in the top nine, that leaves no room for Teuvo, unless Quenneville got smart and decided to leave him as the third line center and demote Shaw to a fourth line wing where he belongs. But that’s not going to happen. Shaw is Q’s third line center, and that’s that. Instead of keeping Teravainen in the NHL and having him scratched from the lineup on a regular basis, the Hawks have opted to send him to Rockford where he’ll see loads of playing time.

In Teravainen’s place on the roster we’ll now see West Dundee native Ryan Hartman. Hartman is looked at as being a potentially more valuable version of Andrew Shaw. They are similar players in that they are agitators who also possess offensive talent. Hartman is likely a better offensive player than Shaw, and has notched 8 goals and 10 assists in 47 games this year in Rockford. He also earned 81 penalty minutes there this year.

Also coming up to the Hawks is Kyle Cumiskey, who leaves Rockford with 1 goal and 10 assists on the year. Cumiskey is recognized for his speed and puck-moving abilities, and that’s about it…

These moves raise a few questions regarding the current state of the Blackhawks.

  1. Will they stick with 8 active defensemen on the NHL roster?
  2. What does this mean for Andrew Shaw?
  3. And to combine the two questions, is a trade looming?

It’s no secret that the Blackhawks probably would like to upgrade their d-corps between now and the end of the trade deadline. I’m not sure that anyone in Chicago feels too comfortable having to rely Rozsival, Rundblad, and Oduya in the lineup at the same time on a nightly basis in the playoffs. It would be great if they could get a trustworthy, number 4-5 defensemen to replace either Rozsival or Rundblad, ideally. The odds of that happening are not great though, as almost every contender is looking to do the same thing for a low price. Still, I don’t see them progressing with eight active defensemen. Does this mean that Tim Erixon gets placed on long term injured reserve assuming no trade is made? We shall see. And let’s not forget that Trevor van Riemsdyk is due back from injury sometime before the playoffs. That adds another d-man to the roster. We would all like to believe that TVR is the answer for the Hawks’ defense, but there’s no telling what kind of shape his legs will be in or how long it will take him to get back into game-shape, let alone playoff-shape. Needless to say, more moves are to come concerning the team’s defensemen.

As for Andrew Shaw, the call-up of Ryan Hartman could possibly (not likely) mean that the Hawks are looking to deal him. The Hawks need to shed some salary before next season, and with the way Shaw has performed this year, he looks expendable. Ryan Hartman, if he performs well in the NHL, is a very similar player to Shaw, and could hypothetically take his place in the lineup. If dealing Shaw results in acquiring a defensemen of the caliber that I previously described, then I’m all for it. The Blackhawks have enough offensive firepower to win without Andrew Shaw, and if Hartman can fill his void, it’s a win-win situation. Granted, this is assuming that Hartman gets a chance to prove himself, which is by no means a guarantee as long as Quenneville his behind the bench. It’s just as likely, if not more, that Carcillo continues playing every night while Hartman watches and eventually gets sent back down.

Clearly, a lot could potentially happen with the Blackhawks’ roster in the near future. One thing is for sure though, and that’s that the recent moves by the Hawks have raised a lot of eyebrows and questions. Could a trade be coming? Or do they have a different plan in store? As usual, only time will tell.