Blackhawks’ fourth line, centered by MacKenzie Entwistle, setting a ‘good example’

The Hawks’ bottom forward line of Entwistle, Boris Katchouk and Reese Johnson has been the team’s best — by far — in the last three games. Coach Luke Richardson has been complimentary of their strong play.

SHARE Blackhawks’ fourth line, centered by MacKenzie Entwistle, setting a ‘good example’
MacKenzie Entwistle celebrates his goal.

The Blackhawks loved seeing MacKenzie Entwistle score his first goal last week.

Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

NEW YORK — MacKenzie Entwistle might be the most well-liked player on the Blackhawks.

In the locker room after any practice or morning skate, there’s a good chance the 23-year-old forward will be laughing, joking or messing around with several of his teammates, lightening the mood.

So when Entwistle — after 21 consecutive games without a goal to start the season — finally scored Wednesday against the Oilers, the Hawks were thrilled.

‘‘First of all, it’s great to see ‘Twisty’ get rewarded,’’ Max Domi said that night. ‘‘He has been playing so hard, and he’s such a great kid. We all love him in here. He has been all over it, so it’s awesome to see him get on the board.’’

To Entwistle, the goal was a relief — and a bittersweet sweet one, at that, considering the Hawks still lost the game.

‘‘It sucks not being able to contribute,’’ Entwistle said that night. ‘‘Not that I wasn’t contributing, but I want to get on the board; I want to help the team win. I felt like [during] my first 20 games I had a couple of looks, and they just weren’t going in. It’s nice to finally get on the board.’’

But he did think it might ignite some momentum for the fourth line, which he recently has been centering with Boris Katchouk and Reese Johnson on his wings. Katchouk had scored his own first goal of the season — after 11 goose eggs — the same night.

‘‘It’s about building blocks, and tonight was a big building block for us,’’ Entwistle said. ‘‘The first 20 games, Boris was hurt for a little bit and Reese was in and out of the lineup. For us to get a couple of points tonight . . . is a big confidence-booster. Now it’s just about doing that night in and night out.’’

As it turns out, he was right.

In the Hawks’ last three games, starting against the Oilers and continuing against the Rangers and Islanders this past weekend, the fourth line has been their best. In fact, based on the advanced stats, it has enjoyed one of the better three-game stretches by any Hawks line this season.

During the line’s 19 minutes of five-on-five ice time, the Hawks have enjoyed a 20-12 advantage in shots and a 9-3 edge in scoring chances, outscored their opponents 3-1 and produced 80.3% of the expected goals.

By comparison, the Hawks’ second-best line during this stretch — the second line, centered by Domi — sports a measly 39.5% expected-goals ratio. The third line (centered by Jason Dickinson) is at 36.7% and the first line (centered by Jonathan Toews) is at 33.4%.

In the Hawks’ skid-busting victory Saturday against the Rangers, Johnson scored the much-needed first goal of the game, concluding an excellent first shift for the whole line. Coach Luke Richardson mentioned twice after the game, then a third time before the game Sunday against the Islanders, how strongly that shift set the Hawks’ tone.

‘‘Entwistle’s line again gave us a great start,’’ Richardson said. ‘‘[They] just put the puck in, forechecked them, got it back to the point and shot the puck while getting bodies in front. We got a good tip. The other guys recognized it, realized it and followed suit. So that was a good example for the whole team, the way they played.’’

Even in the Hawks’ loss Sunday, the fourth line outshot the Islanders 4-2 at five-on-five. The rest of the team, meanwhile, was buried 28-12.

The Hawks likely will need more contributions from their bottom-six forwards Tuesday. The Devils’ shockingly good 20-4-1 start has been driven by their depth, with a whopping 10 forwards already having at least 12 points. By comparison, only three Hawks forwards — Patrick Kane, Domi and Toews — have reached that threshold.

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