The NHL playoffs started unevenly for the Chicago Blackhawks, and the team’s two biggest stars certainly had a hand in it. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane performed well below their established norms early on against the St. Louis Blues.
This quickly changed once the series moved to the United Center, and the rest was history; the Blackhawks did not lose another game, and the Blues gained the unsavory distinction of dropping four playoff games in a row in each of their last four trips to the postseason. Not coincidentally, this rapid turn in the direction of the series was fueled by both Toews and Kane returning to peak form.
Kane was particularly excellent in Game 4, notching two goals including the overtime winner, and an assist in what was perhaps his best game of 2013-14. In the following games, he continued to create consistent offensive opportunities for himself and his teammates, looking like the Kane from early in the season who was second in points only to Sidney Crosby. A Kane pass in Game 6 sprung a Patrick Sharp breakaway, helping the previously scoreless winger escape his dreadful offensive slump.
Toews scored the winning goal in Games 3, 5 and 6 while providing his typically excellent defensive and puck possession play. He won 62 percent of his face-offs, apparently unaffected by the shoulder injury that kept him out of Chicago’s lineup at the end the regular season. Whether or not the injury is still bothering Toews is not entirely clear, but his contributions in the latter stages of the series against St. Louis suggest the effects are minimal at worst.
If Toews and Kane can continue playing at the same level both were at in Games 3-6 versus St. Louis, the Blackhawks may very well be hoisting the Stanley Cup in June once again.