As the Blackhawks entered the second round last spring, their top two players were struggling.
Jonathan Toews had a few assists, but he was otherwise frustrated. Those emotions boiled over early in the second-round series vs. Detroit, with Toews taking uncharacteristic penalties and Brent Seabrook coming to the penalty box to help calm him. Kane also had his share of helpers but was quiet in the goal department, and he didn’t start making noise there until the Western Conference Finals.
Flash forward to the present time, and there’s no struggle, frustration or lack of production for Toews or Kane. Their games have been great. Their offensive numbers have been solid, and their goals have been pivotal. The Blackhawks’ dynamic duo has been just that, and they’ve been a big reason why the team is surging as it is.
“They both continue to be consistent,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Those are top guys. Whatever line they’re on they’re going to enhance (it). They lead the charge. We like their consistency as well.”
It’s not just that Kane and Toews are scoring goals, it’s also about when those goals have come. Kane has scored four times this postseason; two of those goals were game-winners, including his first on Friday night. Toews has three postseason goals, all of them game-winners.
Injuries sidelined Kane (left leg) and Toews (left arm) for a few weeks at the end of the regular season. It wasn’t a good sight for the Blackhawks. With that down time, however, came a silver lining: While they were healing, Kane and Toews could also get rest, something they haven’t had much of the past two seasons.
“It wasn’t the plan, but them getting a break going into the playoffs, we felt, was only going to be beneficial for these guys in their approach and being fresh, being energized,” Quenneville said. “We knew that, health-wise ... that they had enough time to be ready. So they both started strong.”
As he entered the St. Louis series, Toews said, “I don’t feel like I lost anything. It was a short while away from playing games, but for anyone who’s been playing right to the end of the season, there’s going to be an adjustment to the speed of the playoffs.”
Toews wasn’t kidding. He was fine from the start, showing little rust off the injury. Kane, however, looked like he was off in those first few games against the St. Louis Blues. Perhaps it was adjusting to the left-knee brace. By Game 4, however, his game was back; it was there again on Friday night, with Kane scoring on a backhand that’s likely gotten its share of replay views.
Toews and Kane have played like Toews and Kane are expected to play so far this postseason. Whether they’re on the same line together, as they were earlier this postseason, or on separate lines as they are now, their games have been stellar.