It was after Game 4 against the Anaheim Ducks that Jonathan Toews talked of the pressure to score, a pressure he always feels and a pressure that’s mainly self-imposed.
Teammate and sometimes line mate Patrick Kane feels the same.
“I mean, as an offensive guy, you want to be helping produce, especially at this time of year,” said Kane, who had three assists in Game 7 vs. the Ducks but has gone point-less in the first two Stanley Cup Final games vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning. “But, you know, we said all along with our team, we don't really care where the goals come from, as long as they're coming from our team.”
We’re not calling two point-free games a slump, because that would be ridiculous. What is eye opening, however, is how the Lightning have contained Toews and Kane, especially Kane, through the first two games. Kane didn’t have a shot on goal in Game 2. So to free up his two stars, coach Joel Quenneville separated them to start the third period. And Toews and Kane will likely be on the first and second lines, respectively, again when the Blackhawks host the Lightning in Game 3 on Monday night.
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“Their team defense is aggressive. There's not a lot of room and time,” Quenneville said. “I think that maybe changing those two guys on different lines will get us a little bit more depth and a little bit more balance, see how they can defend it.”
Toews and Kane combined usually yields great results but in Tampa they dealt with Cedric Paquette’s line, the Lightning’s top checking trio. In Chicago the Blackhawks could get away from that matchup, certainly; but two lines with a scoring threat is always better than one.
“Certainly, I think splitting those two up gives you a little bit more freedom as far as whether it’s room or something for them to be concerned with,” Quenneville said. “I think a little bit more balance to our offense is why we usually keep them apart. We’ll see how that progresses.”
Toews talked of goal-scoring pressure after Game 4 of the Western Conference Final, when he scored his first goal since Game 2 of the second round. He would score four more over the next three games. The goal scorers have their slumps or, in Kane’s case, their blips. They usually break out of them quick, too.
“You know, I think I can help in that area obviously. That's one of my jobs here, is to try to produce offense,” Kane said. “Hopefully [I] start that up next game.”
- Trevor van Riemsdyk “could” play against Tampa Bay in Game 3, Quenneville said on Sunday. Quenneville said the same thing heading into Game 2 but stayed with the same six defensemen from Game 1. Still with Blackhawks getting the matchups they want in a home game, this may be the best time to bring van Riemsdyk back into the fold.
- Bryan Bickell could also play on Monday night. Bickell has missed the last two games with an upper-body injury but Quenneville said, “I think he’s healthy.”