Andrew Desjardins didn’t need Joel Quenneville to spell it out for him. It’s not hard to figure out what the message was after Desjardins was benched for the third period of Game 2 and scratched for Game 3.
“Just be better,” said Desjardins, who was back in the lineup Tuesday night for Game 4. “I think it’s that simple.”
Desjardins was scratched for the first two games of the first round last season, before returning for Game 3 and becoming a key factor in the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup run, joining with Marcus Kruger and Andrew Shaw to form a terrific shutdown fourth line. That trio was back together in Game 4, and Desjardins hopes they have similar success for the rest of the postseason.
“I think at times we’ve been great,” Desjardins said. “It’s just getting the puck deep, a little bit more zone time, a little bit more cycle time. That can always be improved. Defensively, we’ve done a pretty good job. They haven’t scored a ton of goals on us or anything. But I think we can have a little more puck possession in the offensive zone.”
Quenneville agreed, saying that he wants to Desjardins to have the puck more and sustain some offensive pressure. While he plays primarily a defensive role, Desjardins didn’t have a single shot on goal in the first two games.
What has separated the Hawks from most teams in their championship seasons has been their depth, with a fourth line that can handle 12-15 minutes a night and the toughest defensive assignment, all while generating some offense. In 2013, the fourth line of Michael Frolik, Dave Bolland and Kruger was on the ice for the Stanley Cup-winning goal. In 2015, Desjardins, Kruger and Shaw were as important as the top line.
“I think expectations are high for myself [and] obviously the coaches expect a little bit more,” Desjardins said. “That’s all I’m taking from it. A little bit more — a little bit more swagger, a little bit more attitude, a little bit more grit. Just all around better.”
Flipping the ice — starting shifts in the defensive zone but ending in the offensive zone — is the key.
“We’ve got to have a better cycle game in their end,” Shaw said. “We’re doing a good job of getting pucks out of our end. … We were keeping pucks to the outside, making sure they don’t get any opportunities, but we’ve got to get pucks behind their ‘D’ and make them turn, and use the back of the net for our cycle game.”
The Hawks haven’t had much of a four-line rotation so far in this series. The third line, with Teuvo Teravainen centering a rotating cast of wingers, has been playing less than 10 minutes a night and has been largely invisible. And both the third and fourth lines have required bolstering from double-shifting players such as Patrick Kane, which largely defeats the purpose of spreading the minutes around.
Against the deep and physical Blues, the Hawks need everyone involved and everyone contributing. Desjardins knows this. And while he wasn’t thrilled with being benched and scratched, he got the message.
“Obviously, you’re not happy about it,” he said. “You want to show not just your coach, but your teammates, that you’re ready to go again. … There’s that standard that you’ve got to play all-out all the time, and if [Quenneville] doesn’t see you doing that, you’re going to be held accountable.”