PHILADELPHIA – At some point this post-season, it would have seemed preposterous the Blackhawks would have more wins in the Stanley Cup final than Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have points combined.
Yet, that’s the reality for Chicago after winning the first two games at home.
Toews and Kane have been noticeably missing on the scoresheet. Not a point, not an assist. Their sticks have barely touched the puck, reducing Chicago’s star forwards to jumping in the celebration pile instead of igniting one.
In a series where goalie Antti Niemi and a roll call list of scorers have put the Blackhawks ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers 2-0, Toews and Kane have yet to play a major part in helping Chicago try and win its first Stanley Cup since 1961.
“It’s not always the top line that gets it done as far as goal scoring,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said Tuesday. “By committee, by team, there’s a lot of different areas. Defence can even complement scoring as well.”
True, but having the pair take over a game or two in hostile Philadelphia can ease some of the offensive burden of others not used to being counted on to score. Kane scored 30 goals and had 88 points this season; Toews had 25 goals and 68 points in leading the Blackhawks revival from one-time doormat to the second-best record in the Western Conference.
Winning is all that matters to Kane and Toews. If it means they go pointless in the final and they still get to hoist the Stanley Cup, they’ll make that trade any day.
The punchless pair were nowhere to be found on Tuesday, taking a day off from talking about their slump with the media. While two games is hardly a huge reason to worry, their overall production has become a bit worrisome.
Kane hasn’t scored in six straight games, while Toews is goalless in four.
Yes, both players would like to start scoring. But their absence in the goal column hasn’t affected the Blackhawks in the win column. Chicago has won seven straight games in the playoffs and 10 of 11.
“They do so much more for us than put pucks in the net,” Chicago forward Patrick Sharp said. “It doesn’t concern us. We’ve said all playoffs long, we don’t care who scores the goals as long as we get the wins. We have four lines that can contribute offensively and that’s why we’re here.”
Toews noted after Chicago’s 2-1 win in Game 2 on Monday night that depth could take the Blackhawks far.
“Not all the pressure is on us to score, which is a good thing,” he said.
Kane said he wanted to achieve “special things” in the Stanley Cup final, but hasn’t been bothered by his lack of production.
“I would be if we weren’t up two games in the series,” he said.
Not even moving the series to Philadelphia and its notoriously hostile home crowd for Wednesday night’s Game 3 should intimidate the Blackhawks. They’re as at ease on the road as at home this post-season—a sparking 7-1 record in the road uniforms.
But the Flyers have the same record at home during this run.
The Flyers have to be agitated they’ve shut down Chicago’s top two players and still failed to win a game. Marian Hossa and Ben Eager scored 28 seconds apart late in the second period against Michael Leighton to win Game 2.
“We’ve done a good job against their top line, but we need to eliminate those other lines as well,” Flyers defenceman Chris Pronger said. “They’ve gotten a couple of good bounces to go their way on some of their goals. I don’t think we really need (to) change much.”
The Flyers have erased Kane and Toews from the scoresheet by pressuring them and minimizing odd-man breaks. By taking away the duo’s time to make plays, and their space, the Flyers have basically eliminated them from the game.
Philly’s next step is cranking the pressure on Niemi. He made 14 of his 32 saves in the third period of Game 2’s win and made some sensational body-twisting saves to turn back the Flyers.
“Our team is capable of scoring a lot of goals, put a lot of pressure on him,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. “He’s representing a city that hasn’t won a Cup in 50 years. We have to give him a crack of doubt.”
The Flyers have Stanley Cup history working against them.
Only two team teams in 33 tries have ever won the first two games at home and lost the series. Only four teams in the Stanley Cup finals have rallied from a 2-0 series hole to win it all.
Two notes to remember.
ThePenguins did it last year, beating Detroit on the road in Game 7 after trailing the series 3-2.
And, the Flyers already came back from a 3-0 series deficit in this post-season. They stunned the Bruins in the Eastern Conference semifinals and became the first NHL team in 35 years to pull off that type of comeback.
This is not the time for the Flyers to be discouraged.
“The situation we’ve put ourselves in demands desperation now,” forward Danny Briere said.