Toews, Kane reunion going strong for Chicago Blackhawks
When Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane broke into the league together a decade ago, they were wreaking havoc on the ice together all the time.
Opponents didn't know where to turn or how to stop this dynamic duo as they piled up goals and assists for four glorious seasons.
Things changed in 2011-12, however, as coach Joel Quenneville began playing Kane at center.
Then when 2013 rolled around, Quenneville found that keeping the superstars apart actually created more headaches for opponents. Should they focus on stopping Toews and his wingers? Or Kane and his line?
The new formula helped lead to a Stanley Cup in '13, a Western Conference final appearance in '14 and yet another Cup in '15.
For the past six seasons, we've seen very little of Toews and Kane during 5-on-5 play, but as a supremely disappointing 2017-18 campaign winds down, Quenneville has basically said, "What the heck?" and reunited his two highest-paid players.
And guess what? It's working.
Toews, Kane and Brandon Saad skated together for a fourth straight game as the Hawks hosted Carolina at the United Center on Thursday. In the previous three games, Toews had 2 goals and 3 assists; Kane had a goal and 3 assists; and Saad had 2 assists as the Hawks went 2-1-0.
"It makes a powerful line," Quenneville said. "They're having fun with it. Hopefully we can sustain it."
"We're working on getting that chemistry back," Toews said of he and Kane. "We haven't played a together a ton the last couple years, so 5-on-5 and power play I think the two of us can be a lot better.
"We're only going to create more offense than we have already."
We've seen spurts of the old Toews during the past couple of seasons, but for the most part the Hawks' captain has been mired in a three-year slump.
A permanent reunion with Kane may be just what the doctor ordered. This combination has also helped Saad snap out of his season-long doldrums.
So the question is, should Quenneville have tried this a lot sooner?
"I think Joel has done a good job of trying to find different formulas that work when the offense isn't coming," Toews said. "It's worked these last three games. … We can be even better than we have been."
With Toews, Kane and Saad together, it's opened up a huge opportunity for Nick Schmaltz, Alex DeBrincat and Vinnie Hinostroza. These three now form the Hawks' second line and have been giving opponents fits.
"Maybe that opens up even more depth," Kane said. "When we're on the ice, maybe they're worried about us a little bit more and (opponents) take their foot off the gas. … Something Joel's always thought about is having that depth and balanced scoring.
"But you see a lot in the league (now) where teams are loading up one line."
That's certainly the case in Nashville, Dallas, Winnipeg, Vegas, Tampa Bay and in many, many other cases.
And it should at least be seriously considered in Chicago next season.
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