Reuniting Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane pays off in Game 4 win
Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were back on the same line for the Blackhawks in Game 4, and it paid off in a big way.
BOSTON -- At the start of the Stanley Cup Final Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, for reasons that only he knows, decided that it was going to be a good idea to break apart the Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane duo that was so brilliant for him at the end of the Western Conference Final.
Through three games -- and especially Games 2 and 3 -- the Blackhawks offense sputtered against Boston's defense and its white-hot goalie, Tuukka Rask, and had been limited to just five goals.
Obviously, that wasn't going to be good enough.
Prior to Game 4 Quenneville decided it was good time to correct his initial mistake and reunite his best players by placing Toews and Kane back on a line with Bryan Bickell. It paid off in a big way during Chicago's 6-5 overtime as they evened the Stanley Cup Final series as it shifts back to Chicago on Saturday.
And Toews and Kane were a huge part of it. The duo was on the ice for four of Chicago's six goals (three at even-strength, one on the power play) including Brent Seabrooks game-winning goal in overtime.
"I like that line," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said following his team's Game 4 win.
"Big picture, getting them reunited they seem to have some chemistry, and scoring certainly helps. Everybody in that line brings something different to the party. Bicks can shoot off the rush. Kaner has possession. Johnny gets it through. It's a nice combination, so it was nice to see them back and productive, too."
So what exactly was the point of splitting them up in the first place? And why did it take so long to put them back together?
The duo hadn't spent much time together during the regular season (a bit of a shift from season's past when they played on the same line with regularity) but were reunited in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final against the Kings. They responded by playing some of their best hockey of the postseason, including Kane, as he netted four goals over the final two games of the series.
They had a similar performance on Wednesday.
"I think from a coaching standpoint you're always looking for different matchups so you can understand where they're coming from with the move," Kane said when asked about being split up from Toews. "I thought it was a game we needed to get some excitement. It was a big goal by [Michal] Handzus to start us off and I thought all three of us played pretty well, had some big goals, and contributed the way we wanted to contribute.
"Just playing with each other for the first time in a while we feel we can still get better after playing a game like that. You have to be happy with our production."
Toews was the first one to break through with a tip-in goal midway through the second period to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead. It was only his second goal of the playoffs. Even more stunning was the fact that it was just his third even-strength goal in his past 45 playoff games. That lack of goal-scoring certainly received a bit of attention but it shouldn't take away from the fact he was still playing strong hockey even if it wasn't always showing up in the box score.
Just two minutes later Kane put in his goal to give the Blackhawks their first two-goal lead of the night and starting off a chaotic 10-minute stretch to close out the period.
"I think maybe the game tonight we definitely worked really hard to create the chances we did," Toews said. "The chances we got and the goals that we scored weren't turnover plays or lucky bounces for us. They were goals where we were moving the puck around, we shot, we got rebounds, we recovered the puck, and finally we scored a goal. Shooting, scoring chances, and every attempt to shoot the puck, we just never want to pass any of that that up. That's the way we played tonight and we had some success."
Even though Chicago entered Wednesday's game in a 2-1 series hole and spent most of Game 4 trying to hold off a Bruins rally, the Blackhawks have spent most of the series to this point outshooting, outchancing, and at times even outplaying the Bruins (like most of Games 1 and 2, and definitely the early part of Game 3) but simply could not break find a way to solve Rask.
As it turns out, they just needed to keep at it and on Wednesday, all of that work finally paid off.
"It was one of those nights," Quenneville said. "Sometimes the puck goes in."
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