BOSTON — After going through the motions for the first three games of the series, the Blackhawks’ big guns were reunited on Wednesday night for Game 4 and the move paid off big time for the Hawks and head coach Joe Quenneville.
Jonathan Toews centered Bryan Bickell and Patrick Kane to reunite a line that led the Blackhawks to a Game 5 win in the Western Conference finals over the Kings. It was that line that carried the Hawks to the series-ending victory over Los Angeles as Kane had three goals while Bickell and Toews added two assists each in the Conference clincher.
Through the first three games of the Stanley Cup Final against the Bruins, however, the three were split up and couldn’t stay hot as they combined for just one assist in 13 periods of action. Talk about separation anxiety.
Quenneville opted to make his offense a little top-heavy by putting his two most-lethal scorers on the first line, partially thanks to the return of Marian Hossa, who hopped on a line with Patrick Sharp and Michal Handzus after missing Game 3.
“I like that line,” Quenneville said of his Kane-Toews-Bickell line. “Big picture getting reunited, they seem to have some chemistry. Everybody in that line brings something different to the party. Bicks off the rush can shoot. Kaner has possession. Johnny gets through. It’s a nice combination. So it was nice to see them back and productive, too.”
“Kane and I have played together over so many years now, and I think whenever we get the chance to get back together, we complement each other because we play very different games. But we do a lot of good little things out there to help each other out,” Toews said. “A lot of credit goes to Bickell. He’s having a great playoffs. We work hard, get the puck back, get chances, we’re cycling the puck, he’s playing smart hockey. He’s not giving the puck away. He’s holding onto it, keeping the play alive. He had a heck of a shot late in the game that hit the crossbar. When the two of us can make some plays and open up space for him, he’s a dangerous guy, too. The three of us have been playing well together and we want to keep that work ethic going.”
Productive they were, as Kane had a goal and an assist to go with four shots and a plus-2 in just under 22 minutes of action in the Hawks’ overtime win. Toews, who had zero points this series leading up to Game 4 (as well as just five points — all assists – in his last 1o games), had his first goal since May 25. Bickell, meanwhile, added a pair of helpers and finished with a plus-3. The big winger provided his crafty linemates with some traffic in front, some toughness in the corners and flat-out nastiness everywhere in between.
Toews didn’t have the most productive night according to the scoresheet, but he was skating with confidence.
“Johnny had the puck more today,” Quenneville said. “I thought he was more friendly with it. That line was dangerous, be it off the rush, in zone. Obviously scoring has got to help [Toews]. The excitement of that line, Kaner in possession, Bick around with the big body, they scored some different kind of goals. But Johnny had a nice night.”
Finally finding his name on the scoresheet will only boost his confidence, too, as getting that first goal off his back has been on his mind all week.
“I think it makes a world of difference for you when you finally see one go in,” Toews said after the 6-5 win. “I’ve got to say this, the last couple days [Brent] Seabrook has been coming up to me, asking me what I’m thinking about. You know, I have to give him the right answer: ‘I’m thinking about scoring a goal.’ He’s been trying to help me out, make me think a little bit better, have those positive thoughts. You work hard, eventually you’re going to find a way. [Wednesday night] was one of those games, we treated it as a Game 7. We weren’t going to be denied. So I felt that same way, too. It’s time to put all those other games behind us, the games where we struggled to score, forget about it, just find a way to do what you do.”