Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane together on the same line. Call it the nuclear option, or the in-case-of-emergency-break-glass combination. It can have a few nicknames but when coach Joel Quenneville resorts to putting those two together, it has only one meaning: The Blackhawks are desperately looking to boost production.
Patrick Sharp joined Toews and Kane at Tuesday’s practice as the Blackhawks continue to try and rekindle their offense. Quenneville has expressed his reluctance to go this route many times in the past, and understandably so: you’re loading up one line and limiting your forward depth quite a bit. But when you’ve reached the point when your team can’t buy a goal, you do what you gotta do.
“Right now we haven’t had the team scoring so we’re trying to get that first and maybe things will look on balance as we’re going along. But I feel if they can score and other lines can score, maybe there’s balance that way, too,” Quenneville said. “We’re just looking at any way right now to recapture what it’s like to score because we know it’s there."
The Blackhawks’ 5-on-5 scoring has been a problem for a while now. The overall stats are deceptive: through 15 games the Blackhawks have 28 goals, which places them 13th in the NHL. But 14 of those 5-on-5 goals came in their first two games against Pittsburgh and Columbus. So they’ve scored just 14 more 5-on-5 goals over their last 13 games. Ouch.
To repeat, in case of emergency…
As for the players involved, they’re ready to give it a shot again.
“You’ve got a playmaker/puck-handler, a grinder, a shooter. We all have speed, we all kind of think the same way,” Sharp said. “It’s been a while since we’ve been a unit but if that line plays next game, hopefully we can do something.”
Toews and Kane are also usually thrown together in the postseason when the Blackhawks are looking for a knockout punch. When they got together for some games last season, the usual magic wasn’t there. Last year, Kane and Artemi Panarin were the magic combo. Still, the Blackhawks need to do something to generate some offense.
“We’re always a good line the three of us. And I’ve always said when I play with Kaner I always seem to be able to disappear and he can buy himself time and space with the puck so well that I can go to the net or go to areas where the puck might show up after we get scoring chances or shots,” Toews said. “With Sharpie, he’s such a good finisher and he can just make plays and always seems to be in the open ice with the puck under control.”
Toews and Kane are together again, this time with Sharp. The glass has been broken. The Blackhawks are desperate to find answers, and getting the band back together again needs to have a ripple effect, fast.
“That's the goal: create some magic,” Kane said. “The biggest thing is we've got three good players on the line so make sure you're not standing around waiting for the other guy to do it. Go and make stuff happen yourself and when you add two players like that, good things should happen.”