TAMPA, Fla. -- I suppose had you told the Chicago Blackhawks and their legion of fans before the Stanley Cup finals that their team would be heading home with an opening two-game split despite getting one assist from Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane combined, well, there might be a whole lot of people screaming, "We’ll take it! We’ll take it! We’ll take it!"
Oh you better believe you would take it.
Judging from social media Saturday night -- which is always a dangerous thing -- some folks in Chicago are quite concerned that No. 19 and No. 88 have opened their account at the Cup finals with nary a goal between them after two games.
By the start of the third period, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, perhaps after checking his Twitter feed during the intermission, split up Toews and Kane, as he has now done in consecutive games.
But the night remained quiet for Kane, who registered zero shots on goal on the night and was minus-1. He awaits his first point in the series.
Toews and Kane have combined for 16 shot attempts in the first two games of the series (nine in Game 1, seven in Game 2). Toews had three shots on goal Saturday and one missed shot, while Kane had two of his shot attempts blocked and one missed shot.
There were some promising moments, like Kane’s 2-on-1 break with Brandon Saad in the opening period, on which the latter decided to shoot and missed. There were a few other good shifts, too, but no finish from the Kane-Toews duo in what amounted to a 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"They had some great looks there, couple really good quality chances in the first period, good stuff in the second," insisted Quenneville afterward. "They were dangerous. Got more balance off [the line change]. We scored right away, then lost the momentum."
Said Toews of his top line: "I think we had a lot of puck possession, we just didn’t quite get to the inside as much early in the game. So Hoss jumps on our line and we find a way to score. Sometimes a quick change like that will make things click."
But before Hawks fans work themselves into a full-blown panic, know this. The captain of your team stood in the visitors dressing room Saturday night absolutely oozing coolness and confidence about the whole situation.
I mean, let’s give Toews a little rope, right? The man is a two-time Olympic champion and two-time Stanley Cup champion. His best moments are yet to come in this series, of that I can assure you. He’s as clutch as they come. The goals will come. Just like they did when they really mattered late in the Western Conference finals.
"It’s not time to get frustrated, it’s not time to give up. You stay with it and eventually something clicks and when it does, it feels really good," Toews said in an almost jovial tone. "This is the time of year where you just empty the tank, throw everything you can at them. You just continue no matter what. You don’t make excuses. You don’t throw in the towel. You keep working for that offense. It comes at a price, too."
It’s hard not to believe him; he’s done it too many times not to.
Let’s give the Lightning a little credit here too, right? Tampa’s top defensive duo of Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman has been downright awesome so far; which in part is why it might make sense to keep Toews and Kane apart from here on out to make that matchup more difficult for the Lightning. Cedric Paquette's checking line, which opened the scoring Saturday night, has also been good against Toews.
It’s the Cup finals, the competition is fierce. No one gets to go out there and own every shift like it’s a November night in Buffalo.
"They’re working hard, they’re playing good hockey, playing smart, defensive hockey," Toews answered when asked what the Bolts were doing to his line. "We just got to stay with it. I think Saad had a great chance 2-on-1 early in the game, I had a great chance where it bounced right off my stick -- great setup by Kaner -- so one of those go in, maybe you’re not sitting here asking those questions as much."
And you know with Kane the goals can come in bunches and in a hurry. It’s his trademark. He’s headed home now, where his coach will have better control of matchups with the last line change.
"You know, we’ll keep working for that offense, we know it’s going to come. We’ve had some production from all over the first couple of games," said Toews. "It’s not something you want to get frustrated over, you just got to stay patient and keep telling yourself you will score goals when it really matters."
The Hawks play three of the next four games at home, and the best is yet to come from Toews and Kane. Not a bad place to be, actually.