Much has been made in these 2013 Stanley Cup Finals as to the absence of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane from the scoresheet for the Chicago Blackhawks. Some of the criticisms that the two, particularly Toews, have drawn has been warranted, but a lot of it has not been, looking deeper at the numbers and the linemates.
In Game 3, we saw Toews lineup with Michael Frolik and Marcus Kruger on either side of him. Both are excellent players in their defensive roles, but aren’t going to generate offense for Toews. In Game 4, we finally saw Toews and Kane reunited, just as we did in the second half of the Hawks’ series against the Los Angeles Kings.
Toews and Kane weren’t able to prevent the Boston Bruins from causing Corey Crawford to lay an egg, the first time he’s actually done that in these playoffs, but they played a tremendous role in helping the Blackhawks grab the Game 4 win and get the series back to Chicago even at two wins apiece.
Each scored a goal in the second period of Game 4, with Toews putting the Hawks up 2-1 on a redirect from Michal Rozsival, while Kane scooped up a loose puck and lifted it by Tuukka Rask barely over two minutes later. We didn’t see them dominate the possession numbers, especially Toews, in the way they have in this series, but each finished plus-5 in Corsi.
Both Kane and Toews fired four shots on net apiece, and each actually attempted a handful more. The fact is, these two are fantastic when they’re next to each other. It gives each the space they need to help to generate offense. We’ve now seen it in two consecutive series where reuniting the two has made a big difference.
Joel Quenneville has to be kicking himself for not making this adjustment sooner. It’d be hard to imagine we’ll see anyone to the right of Jonathan Toews other than Patrick Kane for the remainder of this series.