The first sight was somewhat of a surprise. We all figured Patrick Kane would be back sooner rather than later, given the constant updates of his steady progress.
The second sight, considering the first one, wasn’t all that shocking either: with a healthy Kane ready to go, it was time to put him back with Kris Versteeg and Brad Richards. It worked once. Now they’ll see if it works again.
Versteeg, Kane and Richards made a great combination in mid-November/early December, when the Blackhawks went on an eight-game winning streak. They’ll be together again on Wednesday when the Blackhawks face the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.
The three were put together just as the Blackhawks embarked on their Circus Trip. That line was a catalyst for the team’s success at that point. When Kane was injured on Feb. 24, the Blackhawks lost their leading scorer and coach Joel Quenneville lost the chance to put that group together again as the season ended. So they’ll try it again now.
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“I obviously really enjoyed playing with him and it’s too bad the year he was having to see that happen to him. I wish we could’ve kept that going and learned more about each other. But that’s hockey, that’s our job,” Richards said. “Hopefully we can get to a better level [this time].”
But why did it work so well the first time?
“Obviously Kaner is on a different level, but we all think the game similar and play the game the same way,” Versteeg said. “That’s how we can all kind of complement each other.”
Relationships don’t hurt, either. Kane and Versteeg have been friends dating back to Versteeg’s first go-around with the Blackhawks. Richards and Kane formed a rapport early on this season, partially thanks to living in the same building.
But there’s something else: when these three were clicking, they were holding onto the puck plenty. Credit Kane for a lot of that; his talent for that was evident during his injury, when the Blackhawks’ puck-possession game diminished.
“I think we were smart with it and knew the times to do it; we had the puck a lot,” Richards said. “We’re not three big monsters where we’re going to come in and put you through the end boards, so you want to have the puck and made it hard on the other team that way. But playoffs is a different game, where you’ve got to be a lot smarter sometimes, and sometimes you do have to give up the puck and live to fight another day. But all three of us have been through playoffs enough to know that.”
A trio that got the Blackhawks going earlier this season is together again, potentially getting them going early in the playoffs. It worked once. The Blackhawks hope it can work again.
“Yeah, we had some good success,” Kane said. “It seems like both of them are skating really well and it seems like they have a newfound energy come with this new postseason coming around. Wherever they put me in the lineup,I’ll be happy. But knowing we had some success earlier in the season, hopefully we can recapture that.”