When you watch the Blackhawks in postseason you come to expect the move - the one that puts Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane on the top line together - at some point.
It happened a little bit in Game 5 against the Anaheim Ducks before becoming more of a fixture in Game 6, Toews standing in front of the net ready to pounce as Kane’s goal - his 10th of the postseason - just crossed the line enough to count as his.
Coach Joel Quenneville likes to keep the two on separate lines as long as possible to give the Blackhawks balance, spreading his scoring threats to two lines instead of just one. But he’ll go to that reassuring combination at critical times, be it down in a series or trying to close one out. So don’t be surprised if those two start together again on Saturday, when the Blackhawks face the Ducks in Game 7 of the Western Conference final.
Quenneville made the move, putting Kane with Toews and Brandon Saad, as the second period began Wednesday night. A few minutes later, it had its impact as Kane passed to Saad, who broke free for a goal and a 1-0 lead. Kane scored a few minutes later.
“Sometimes you go into the mindset of the game, you see what happens initially,” Quenneville said. “We thought going into it, we were ready to try it.”
It’s no surprise the two hit their stride together soon after reuniting.
“Sometimes it takes a few shifts to kind of get adjusted to what each other does, but he’s a world-class player. I always say he’s probably the easiest player to play with in the league,” Kane said of Toews. “He works so hard both ways, wins a lot of battles obviously. He has that offensive talent and he can do plenty of things when he gets the puck. Definitely a fun guy to play with.”
Saad said there’s no massive adjustment on his part when the dynamic duo is put back together.
[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]
“I just try to play but with a guy like that be ready for the puck because he’s got great vision and he makes plays out there so he’s a lot of fun to play with,” Saad said of Kane.
It’s easy to look at the obvious reason why Kane and Toews are so good together: they’re both extraordinarily talented. But it goes beyond that. If either or both had extraordinary on-ice egos to go with that talent, the combination probably would not be successful. There needs to be an unselfish element there, as well as an instinct telling you when it’s good to take the shot yourself or pass it to the other guy.
Toews and Kane were together again in Game 6. You figure they’ll be together again on Saturday night. It’s a big game, and these two create big moments in those situations.
“Those two players, they’re so good by themselves. But when you put them together, they’re a pretty dynamic duo there,” Saad said. “I had fun playing with them [Wednesday night] and hopefully we can continue to have some success.”