Marcus Kruger New Blackhawks 2nd Line Center

As Marcus Kruger moves to the second line for the Chicago Blackhawks, fears about his production may be deceiving.

Marcus+Kruger

Through the season’s first 46 games, Kruger is tied with Niklas Hjalmarsson for 10th on the Blackhawks with 18 points. One of his four goals was a game-winner, and 12 of his 14 assists have come during 5-on-5 skating (nine primary).

But digging deeper shows there is potential for Kruger’s offensive game to grow quickly.

Kruger, as a fourth line center, plays against some of the Hawks’ strongest opponents; his Quality of Competition (-0.004) ranks fourth among regular Blackhawks forwards behind only Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp.

Which speaks to how well Kruger has played this season. He has been used almost exclusively as a defensive specialist, and has improved in a number of key areas. Perhaps the most significant improvement from Kruger this year has come at the dot, where he’s winning 56.8 percent of his faceoffs this year. That’s a major improvement – over 10 percent - from last year, when he won only 46.2 percent of his draws.

Perhaps the biggest indicator of Kruger’s use has been where his shifts begin. Kruger only begins 21.7 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, compared to 68 percent for one of his new linemates, Patrick Kane.

Kruger spends 2:26 of his 13:44 on the ice each night short-handed, and has been one of coach Joel Quenneville’s primary penalty killers since the beginning of the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.

What will be interesting is to see how Kruger responds to playing with good teammates. His Quality of Teammates rating (a statistic that rates the average relative plus-minus of teammates, weighted by ice time together) of -0.226 ranks 20th on the Hawks this year.

We do know that Kruger’s 1.80 points per 60 minutes ranks sixth among players currently on the Hawks’ roster (Brandon Pirri and Jeremy Morin are also higher). We also know that Kruger has only spent 43:20 on the ice with Kane during 5-on-5 play this year, and that their CORSI together is 9 while the goals for/against ratio is split 50/50. Kruger is also winning 55.6 percent of his faceoffs when both teams are at full strength.

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21 Responses to Marcus Kruger New Blackhawks 2nd Line Center

  1. Tim G says:

    I feel like this will be good for 16. I really think this line can produce. probably not the long term answer, but if it can get us though this year, thats all it needs to do. FWIW, TT is back in the Jokerit lineup today (centering the 2nd line and has 1 Assist so far. Jokerit up 2-0 in the 2nd right now..) after taking a few games to recover from the WJC.

    I do agree with the posts from yesterday that push steeg/saad to their strong sides.

    10/19/81
    20/16/88
    29/65/23
    52-11/26-37/28

    There has been alot of talk about 52 and 26 slowing down the lineup. I feel both bring a niche to this team. They should be here. But I would skate 52 with 37 and 11 with 26. This keeps everyone playing and you can rotate when needed. i know this wont happen if we are carrying 8 d-men, but it sounds good on paper. In a more realistic idea. You have 65 and 26 be co-3/4C’s. 65 takes offensive zone draws with both lines. 26 gets the defensive. and you can rotate them in the neutral zone. yes, i know consistancy is a good thing for these guys, but the staff also needs to get the most of the roster. if thats what it takes, do it!

    But, at the end of the day, we are just waiting for TT to be here next year as 2C. Danault/McNeil/Ross/Nordstrom are all still alittle away, but the good thing for us is that there is no rush on them. I would assume Smith gets an extention, and the only UFA’s are Bollig and Zus. TT takes one of those spots. and perhaps Pirri or Morin get resigned and get the other.

    But the embarrassment of riches is that this doesn’t even include guys like LeBlanc/K. Hayes/Hartman (who looks legit)/Calnan/Hino/Hayden/Broadhurt’s/etc. We have tons of bottom 6 guys with top 6 talent. The Hawks should be a top 5 team in the NHL for atleast the next 3 years.

  2. Tab Bamford says:

    Here are your lines from Friday morning practice:

    Sharp-Toews-Hossa
    Bickell-Kruger-Kane
    Saad-Handzus-Versteeg
    Bollig-Shaw-Smith

  3. Mike McCormick says:

    Roll em.

  4. Tim G says:

    As long as Bicks pulls his head out of his butt, im good with those lines… Give Shaw the occational 3rd line shift and Saad the occational 2nd line shift… and GO!

  5. Mike says:

    So what happens to the second line (5 on 5) if the Hawks are on PK any significant time. Who slides up? Zues or Shaw?

    Didn’t really picture Zues on the third line. That said, Morin / Shaw / Smith would be a tough physical line.

    I am not sure I would ever put 11 and 26 on the same line.

    10 / 19 / 81
    20 / 16 / 88
    29 / 65 / 23
    11 / 37 / 28
    I would like to see this line for 3 or 4 games.

  6. SouthSideHawkMan says:

    To quote Pete Townsend, “Meet the new boss Same as the old boss.”

    Hopefully Marcus can take this opportunity and run with it. Its also interesting that Bickell moves up the lineup. I’m assuming this is due to the size disadvantage the both Kane and Kruger give up on the same line. They are the 2 smallest guys on the team I believe.

    The Hawks are struggling a bit right now, so maybe this shake up will be helpful.

  7. Montana Blackhawk says:

    Can anyone tell me if CC is completely healthy. Yes, he made some huge stops against NY, but that attempted “billiard clear” that ended up behind him was absolutely unacceptable! What gives Crow? I would like to see more of 31 for a bit if CC is not 100%. Why rush him at this point?

  8. JS says:

    The Hawks last 3 losses the Hawks have scored 2 goals in each game. You can’t expect to win when you score 2 goals. In those games, Crow has had a .952, .906, .912 save percentage. Sometimes bad goals go in… but he has given the Hawks a chance to win all of those games.

    The lines are just depressing to me. He can’t really blender the lines unless he bumps Shaw to the third and stops shifting the fourth. Bollig and Handzus can not play together. It would be like a cruise ship and an air craft carrier passing in the night.

    Part of me is hoping for more poor production from line 3/4 so they have to make roster changes. Then again, maybe they plan on bringing Pirri up but can’t because he’s hurt. 20/37/23 might work. 23 can take faceoffs to help with possession.

  9. ebonyraptor says:

    I’m excited to see how Kruger works out at 2C. He’s definitely a better player now than he was a couple years ago when Q gave him a (brief) shot at 2C. He’s stonger and more confident which will allow him to use those nifty little passes that he’s always had the ability to do but maybe never the confidence or much opportunity.

    Is he the long term solution at 2C? Probably not, but I wouldn’t count him out so fast because he has shown he has a big heart and nobody outworks him. He’s come a long way from being looked at as a guy who only got ice time because he was one of Stan’s pet Swedes to a guy that has won over Hawks fans with his courage and hard work. The fact that he has improved on faceoffs so dramtically speaks to his dedication to improve his game.

    In a city like Chicago, where sports fans appreciate the guys who bust their butts and give 110% effort – Kruger is the epitome of that type of player. What Hawk fan is not pulling for this guy? This is fun.

  10. MS says:

    ER well said – I completely agree.

    I still am convinced that we will make a move at the trade deadline based on the growing depth of talent in Rockford. Without any changes in the organization it appears that Johns, Hayes, Fournier, Brown, Hartman and Holl will be moving to Rockford next year (assuming none makes the Hawks). If Kruger has some success as 2c then perhaps we find a solid veteran that is strong defensively (but can skate) to step in for Zus.

  11. Sr. Brad says:

    I hear what you are saying JS…you know the real reason Shaw got “demoted” to the 4th line is that Handzus and Bollig can’t be on the ice together…so others pay the price…

    ER, I agree…Kruger is a great kid and deserved of this chance…

    The problem with all of these moves, on paper, is this…they are mediocre responses…SSHM said it best when he quoted the Who from “We Won’t Get Fooled Again”…he’s right…new lines, same issues…with Bickell struggling and Kruger not used to an offensive role, how is the 2nd line supposed to gel, or even control the puck? Handzus centring Versteeg on the 2nd line wasn’t working…all of his production stopped…and Saad is going to be an improvement to Kane??? The only thing that will help is that the 4th line should get a little better with Shaw and they should see increased minutes…

    The bottom line is this…after last game it was apparent to everyone, even Rfus, that changes had to be made…this is Q’s last ditch effort to keep Bollig and Handzus on the roster…because if these moves don’t work, then some one has to be called up…I just hope this latest diversion from the source of the problems doesn’t cost us too many points…we have a tough schedule for the next while, starting tomorrow…

  12. RyanDale says:

    ode to SSHM-The change, it had to come.We knew it all along.We were liberated from the fold, that’s all

    It’s something I guess. And it only took what? 20 games with 26 not producing but 7pts, +1. I love 16s compete level, I hope he can fit in. The lines don’t really knock me over at a glance though, but we’ll see. It just burns me that 2c is where it is half way thru 13-14 season when 37 seemed adequate enough for now. This better be just the start of change though. Still same 12 guys

    I think Crawford’s health is fine, you just don’t send out your no.1 guy out there in middle of season unless he’s ready. He’s doing fine, fans tend to be quick to criticize their goalie for any misstep. I’m good with 50 right now. I do think he got a very generous deal but I dont have to pay him.

  13. ebonyraptor says:

    Regarding the line changes – if nothing else they’re creative.

    But I’m going to take a more optimistic stance. Granted, it wasn’t overwhelming evidence, but I thought Bickell played his best game in a long while against the Rangers. He seemed more involved and aggressive. I’m not saying he had a great game, or even a good game, but I thought I saw a bit of a spark of what we’ve been looking for from him. Maybe Q saw the same thing and is taking the opportunity to parlay the only positive he’s shown lately hoping that that spark ignites some kindling. Small steps in the right direction.

    I also don’t mind Handzus with Saad and Versteeg. It’s not ideal but I can see a positive spin on it. That being that both Saad and Versteeg are kind of wildcards or maybe wild hares is a more apt description. They both play all over the ice with speed and you’re never quite sure what they’re going to do – and neither is the oppostion. Handzus will provide a steadying influence to the helter skelter twins. Who knows – it’s worth a looksee.

    And then there’s Shaw centering the 4th. Some may point out he’s the victim of circumstance in that someone had to take the 4C and Shaw drew the short straw. But I’m not sure that the only resaon for the move. Shaw has not been very productive lately and maybe this will motivate him. He’ll probably still get PP time but fewer minutes at even strength might help him regain that super pest jump that made him the player he is.

    All positive spins … but that’s all I got and you never know.

  14. J.C. says:

    Sad thing is everybody knows Pirri (once healthy) and Morin need to be up. Alas, Q just will have none of that. So this will be the last time I ever mention it lol

  15. RyanDale says:

    JC, I’m sure that some folks will continue to carry the torch for 11/37 on your behalf. count on that.

    Always look forward to playing Montreal, and this is a big game for us. We need to reestablish ourselves a bit and playing in Montreal would be a great place to do it. Habs are so up and down I have no idea what to expect from them. Everything outside of our PK vs their PP would indicate a clear advantage for us. But so did the trip to Toronto. Big night for CC and I think he will play well and be Price’s equal or better. Habs been shutout 3 times at home this season, would love to see 50 get one in his hometown We have got to stay out of the penalty box, especially the first period. A good ‘road’ 1st pd is key. 5 on 5 we should be fine, and I expect us to have good amount of possession time throughout. Another sub par effort vs an East team just can’t happen. Mont blocks tons of shots so be looking for lanes and fire on Price with all we got. Would love to see some ‘new’ faces on the score sheet tonight.

  16. wall says:

    ER- Re:29, the flat-lining stopped for a couple of shifts and a “pulse” was spotted.
    Hopefully 16 can bring out the paddles and revitalize 29!!!

    In memory of TTisabeast… the Hawk’s real 2nd center/TT- had 3 assists yesterday in his 1st game back from the GOLD!!!

  17. Travis says:

    about freaking time. kruger deserves it. most improved hawk on the roster. one of my favourites to watch. IQ and compete level off the charts. come on marcus! make me proud!

  18. RyanDale says:

    Shouldn’t Subban’s initials be P.P. rather than P.K.?
    He does very little PK, yet refuses to leave the ice on the PP

    Anyone else find it a little ironic that he was sat down for awhile by Therrien during the game that came right after he was named to Team Canada?

  19. Negzz says:

    Not to be a kill-joy, but I doubt TT will be with the Hawks in ’14-’15, he’s just too small at this point to play in the NHL (particularly at a featured position like 2C), and needs acclimation to the more physical N.A. game from what I have observed and most reports I have heard/seen. Obviously, the Hawks are counting on him for a big role in ’15-16 assuming he continues to impress at the next level (which I assume/hope he will.) As such, I am really pulling for 16 to do well at 2C and make this job his to lose moving forward, he’s another smaller guy that has started to mature into bigger/stronger player and has worked and worked his way to this opportunity. I’m with Travis on this one!

    As for Shaw, he’s been taking stupid penalties for several weeks now and has not been productive with the chances he’s been given. A stint on line-4 is just what the doc ordered imo. Hopefully Bicks light is coming on and he brings some energy and tenacity when re-paired with 88, I’m optimistic this has the potential to re-ignite Kane after a little trough in productivity as well.

  20. wall says:

    TT- is never going to go behind the net and win a board battle… the only concern would be his IQ/awareness to dodge the Big hit/stay healthy -Like Kane does!!! Furthermore, he is ideal for Hawks game- move the puck- quick transition- NO HIT- style. If he was in Nashville or L.A.- he would probably need AHL… not Here!

    Once again- based on #’s in WJC- TT is in Elite group… he would be the exception to the rule/#’s if he DOESN’T transform into a Very good NHL’er

  21. Morrison says:

    T will be on the ’14 roster (maybe not right after training camp). 88, 65, 23, 16, 37 & 36 are all around 180…

    I like these lines right now, to get a boost & we seem to find some moar combos that we didn’t/wouldn’t have tried if Q didn’t have a sack. I think 20 & 23 on a line was what hes was talking about a few wks ago/with lines.

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