Reunion of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane proves successful
BY MARK LAZERUS Staff Reporter April 22, 2014 11:21PM
Best of seven
Patrick Kane peeled away from the play and started racing up the ice before Jonathan Toews even got the puck on a turnover deep in the defensive zone. Toews immediately fired an 80-foot pass that hit Kane’s tape in stride, and Kane scored on a breakaway.
Besides the talent it took to make that play in the first period of Game 1 against the Blues, it took chemistry — the ability to read a play, to anticipate the next few moves. That’s what Kane and Toews have. And that’s why, as he often has in the crucible of the postseason, coach Joel Quenneville has put the two on the same line.
‘‘When you kind of grow up with someone and you’re together for this long and know someone for this long, it helps when you play with each other on the ice,’’ Kane said. ‘‘Our first few years, it seems like we played together a lot. Lately, not as much. But still, when you get together, you try to figure out what was successful when you did play together.’’
Quenneville’s rationale for keeping the two apart makes sense: It gives the lineup more balance by creating two elite scoring lines (though, as Kane pointed out, with Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa on the roster, that would be the case anyway). But it’s something Quenneville always keeps in his back pocket for whenever the offense needs a jump start.
With one goal from a forward through the first two games — Kane’s breakaway — it was time. And less than five minutes into Game 3, Toews scored.
Reunited with left wing Bryan Bickell — the combination that ignited the Hawks (and Kane, in particular) during the Western Conference finals last spring — the line created several more scoring chances that Kane was lamenting not scoring on. Bickell had a game-high eight hits.
The trio will be back together Wednesday for Game 4.
‘‘Two special players,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘They feed off each other, anticipating offensively — see plays, make plays. They’re a threat off the rush. They’re two pretty amazing players. I was comfortable with that line on both sides of the puck. Bick adds a little dimension, so it was effective.’’
The Hawks are 1-for-14 on the power play through three games and, for the most part, have looked worse than that sounds. Part of that has to do with the Blues, who were the second-best penalty-killers in the league during the regular season.
The Blues have forced the Hawks to chip the puck in or rim it around the boards and often have outworked the Hawks along the boards to clear those pucks. They’ve also clogged shooting lanes, with the Hawks managing only 12 shots on goal on those 14 power plays.
But the Hawks haven’t helped themselves with sloppy passing, a meager front-of-the-net presence and little movement with the puck once they do set up in the offensive zone. Quenneville said they were ‘‘too predictable.’’
‘‘[The Blues] block a lot of shots, they have a great goaltender and they like to put a lot of pressure on you,’’ Kane said. ‘‘The biggest thing is to try to move the puck quick and get our shots through and create some havoc at the net.’’
The bright side is, the Blues’ power play has been an even-worse 1-for-16. And the Hawks proved last season a team can win a Stanley Cup with a bad power play, as long as it has great penalty-killing.
Cleaning it up
Game 3 had by far the fewest skirmishes and scrums of the series, which was fine by the Hawks.
‘‘We don’t really look for scrums and all that extra activity after the whistle,’’ defenseman Sheldon Brookbank said. ‘‘I think we got away from that a little bit in Games 1 and 2, and we just wanted to remind ourselves to play our brand of hockey and stick with what works for us.’’