CHICAGO – Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are not exactly imposing, their playoff beards about the only thing keeping them from being mistaken for somebody’s little brothers.
Try telling that to the Boston Bruins and their bruising tandem of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg.
Chicago’s top line made the Bruins pay again Saturday night, with Kane scoring two more goals in a 3-1 victory that puts the Blackhawks one victory away from its second Stanley Cup title in four years. Since Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville tinkered with his top line before Game 4 to reunite his two best players, Kane and Toews have combined for four goals and seven points.
And, most important, two wins.
“I think (Kane) gets excited playing with (Bryan) Bickell and Toews,” Quenneville said. “They get excited about that togetherness, and they seem to read off each other. Everybody brings a little bit something different to the party, and they scored two huge goals for us tonight.”
Whether the star-studded line stays intact for Monday night’s potential clincher in Boston isn’t certain, however. Toews didn’t play at all in the third period, though he stayed on the bench and was badgering Quenneville to give him a shift.
“We’re hopeful he’ll be ready next game,” Quenneville said. “He wanted to play. We’ll see.”
Kane and Toews are Chicago’s version of peanut butter and jelly, a perfect combination that just isn’t the same by itself. Drafted a year apart—Toews was the third pick overall in 2006, Kane was first in 2007—they arrived together for the 2007-08 season and have been the cornerstones of Chicago’s rejuvenation. They’ve already won one Stanley Cup, and began this year helping the Blackhawks set an NHL record for season-opening points.
“We’re different style players, but I think we complement each other very well,” Kane said of Toews. “We’ve played together for six years now. I know we didn’t play together very much this year, but throughout times in the past you can look back at those times that we’ve had success.”
But with the Blackhawks facing Boston, Quenneville decided to split up his young stars.
At 6-foot-9 and 255 pounds, Chara looks like a mountain on the ice—and he’s about as impassable. Seidenberg is equally formidable, and Quenneville didn’t want them ganging up on his phenoms at the same time and neutralizing them.
But the experiment failed. Pretty miserably.
With no goals from either Kane or Toews in the first three games, the Blackhawks found themselves trailing the Bruins 2-1. Needing a spark, Quenneville put Kane and Toews back together again for Game 4.
“I think we bring three different styles of play,” said Bickell, who has three points in the last two games.
Such a simple switch, yet it’s turned the series around.
“Playing with Johnny and Bicks, they create a lot of space, and I’ve been taking advantage of the space they do make,” Kane said. “I think everyone wants to be that guy in big-time games, and I’ve been lucky enough in a couple to step up.”
Toews scored his first goal in almost a month—May 25, to be exact—in Game 4, while Kane got his first goal of the series. It was more of the same Saturday, with Kane’s quick reflexes putting Boston on the ropes.
With 2:33 left in the first period, Johnny Oduya’s slapshot hit Seidenberg’s stick and shattered the blade. The puck trickled behind Boston goalie Tuukka Rask and Kane scooped it up and tucked it into the net to give Chicago a 1-0 lead.
He doubled the score just over five minutes into the second period, getting help from both Toews and Bickell.
Bickell picked up a pass from Toews and took a shot from the left side, along the goal line. He got his own rebound and circled around the net, looking like a shark searching for prey. He finally spotted an opening, but the puck caromed off the side of the net.
Kane pounced on the rebound, and Rask never had a chance.
“It’s an exciting time,” Kane said, “especially when you’re scoring in games like this.”