CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has mixed and matched Bryan Bickell, Michal Handzus, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews on two lines throughout the playoffs.
During Game 4 of the Western Conference finals against the Los Angeles Kings, Quenneville made a decision, with his team struggling offensively, to put together a line of Bickell, Toews and Kane and another with Sharp, Handzus and Hossa.
Success has followed.
Each line created a goal in their Game 4 win, with Bickell assisting on a Kane goal to tie the game in the second period and Handzus setting up Hossa for the game winner.
“Sometimes, you're doing it just to change things,” Quenneville explained after Game 4. “We were behind. I still didn't mind the way we were playing at that point of the game. Maybe you get one, and we did.”
Two days later, Quenneville rolled out the same lines, and they proved to be the difference again in the Blackhawks’ 4-3 two-overtime win in Game 5 on Saturday. The Sharp-Handzus-Hossa line was on the ice when Duncan Keith scored the game’s first goal, and Kane provided the next three. Toews and Bickell each had two assists on the night.
Kane has seen the biggest spark in the past two games. He had gone seven games without a goal before scoring in Game 4. He now has six goals and eight assists for 14 playoff points, which ties him with Sharp and Hossa for the team lead. Bickell has 13 points, and Toews and Handzus each have nine.
“I expected more from myself,” Kane said after Game 5. “My teammates probably did, too. You know, I tried to get back to the basics and wanted the puck, get the puck, try and make plays. That's kind of my attitude right now, I guess, is to do that. You know, when you're playing with Bicksy and Toews the last few games, you're going to get those opportunities. A couple nice plays by them [in Game 5]. They take up a lot of space at the net. I think I was the guy that capitalized on the chances. But it's always nice to contribute, especially in games like this.”
Toews also thought his offensive game had picked up in recent games. He helped create Kane’s game winner in the second overtime on Saturday.
“I think Kaner will agree that once you see one puck go in -- I mean, for me, regardless of who scores the goal -- if you're out on the ice, you're part of the action, contributing on an offensive play that ends up in a goal, it helps a lot with your confidence,” Toews said. “I think it just helps you relax every time you get the puck afterwards. It's definitely a good feeling to see a few pucks go in these last couple games.
“I think, for the most part, we just have the puck a lot and we're creating plays. With Bicksy going to the net, he's picking up rebounds, second efforts. I think, for the most part, Bicks and I are able to create space for Kaner. He was the finisher [in Game 5]. It was nice to see Kaner have that success. Obviously, we want to keep that going.”
Quenneville isn’t one to often mess with success, so the two lines will likely get that chance to keep it going when the Stanley Cup finals open Wednesday night.