Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews have found their playoff grooves
BY MARK LAZERUS firstname.lastname@example.org June 9, 2013 10:38PM
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 08: (L-R) Patrick Kane #88 and Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrate after they own 4-3 in the second overtime against the Los Angeles Kings during Game Five of the Western Conference Finals of the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at United Center on June 8, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Updated: June 10, 2013 9:54AM
Look at Patrick Kane, pouncing on a loose puck, darting out wide, luring Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick out of his crease and onto his back, firing over his head.
Look at Kane, stalking the play, in the right place at the right time, waiting for Bryan Bickell to get him the puck so he could smack it into
Look at Kane, down almost to one knee in perfect form, blasting a one-timer into the net, then dropping to both knees, sliding across the ice and flailing his arms in giddy celebration, the spotlight unable to keep up.
Look at Jonathan Toews, aggressively going to the net, hacking away at the puck and creating a juicy rebound for Kane.
Look at Toews, mucking the puck out of the corner and creating a scoring chance.
Look at Toews, outracing Kings defenseman Slava Voynov to a loose puck to spark a two-on-one, then threading a perfect pass to Kane between a pair of defenders for the game-winner.
Look at Kane and Toews, the Blackhawks’ dynamic duo, their beating heart and their fearless leader — active, aggressive, confident.
And not a moment too soon. With the structured, stout Boston Bruins and Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final looming Wednesday, the Hawks will go only as far as their big guns take them.
The Hawks’ run to the Final has been powered by unlikely sources and feel-good stories. There has been Bickell’s ascendance, Corey Crawford’s redemption, Andrew Shaw’s irascibility, Michal Handzus’ rejuvenation, Niklas Hjalmarsson’s grittiness, Michal Rozsival’s endurance and Michael Frolik’s penalty killing — and penalty shooting — just to name a handful.
But the Hawks are only at their best when their best are at their best. And that means Kane and Toews all over the ice and all over the scoresheet — somewhere they haven’t been much this postseason.
In fact, just three days before Toews set up Kane for the game-winning goal in double overtime Saturday, Kane sat in his locker stall at Staples Center sounding like a guy on a shrink’s coach, convincing himself he was still good enough to turn around a disappointing postseason. Toews, meanwhile, was nowhere to be found, almost an afterthought on a team built in his image.
Coach Joel Quenneville said he needed ‘‘more.’’
‘‘I expected more from myself,’’ Kane agreed. ‘‘My teammates probably did, too.’’
So Kane and Toews finally gave Quenneville more. Kane had a goal in Game 4 and a hat trick in Game 5. Toews was a plus-4 in those two games, with two assists and five shots in Game 5. Suddenly, they looked like their old selves.
Even the very best have their doubts and need an occasional confidence boost. And now? The floodgates finally might have opened for good.
‘‘Absolutely,’’ Toews said. ‘‘I think Kaner will agree that once you see one puck go in . . . it helps a lot with your confidence. It just helps you relax every time you get the puck afterward. It’s definitely a good feeling to see a few pucks go in these last couple of games.’’Toews still has only one goal in the playoffs, but he has been a playmaking force at both ends since things got desperate against the Detroit Red Wings. That’s Toews’ game.
But Kane is a goal-scorer, pure and simple. And despite all his struggles, all his angst, all his self-imposed and coach-imposed pressure, Kane once again proved — with maybe the biggest individual game of his illustrious career — that he’s a big-time player, further enhancing a reputation forged with his Cup-winning overtime goal in 2010.
The depth, the role players and the unexpected contributions got the Hawks here. But it’s up to the faces of the franchise to finish the job. And suddenly, after weeks of doubt, questions and concerns, they look up to the task.
Couldn’t have picked a better time.