Toews will notice how someone will get rid of the puck more quickly than usual or play overly cautious because he doesn't want to be the one who costs his team the game.
On the flip side, there’s Patrick Kane. He seeks those moments.
With the Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings tied 3-3 entering the final five minutes in the third period of Game 6 of the Western Conference finals Friday, Kane pursued the moment again. He got the puck in the right circle, skated to the bottom of the circle, surveyed the ice, carried it back toward the blue line, worked to the middle of the ice and saw an opening. He had the puck for nearly 10 seconds before he shot it. The puck bypassed all of the bodies in front of Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, then Quick, and finally found the inside of the net with 3 minutes, 45 seconds remaining.
The goal would end up being the difference as the Blackhawks won 4-3 and forced a Game 7 on Sunday back in Chicago.
Kane, 25, has delivered in such moments many times throughout his career. While his teammates have come to expect the forward to do it, they find that it never gets any less impressive when he does.
“It’s amazing how he turns it on in these big games,” Toews said. “I think a lot of guys are maybe making sure they don’t make mistakes with the puck and getting rid of the puck in certain areas, but he’s as calm as ever with it even if it’s late in the period and the ice is a little rough. He just keeps that puck flat, and he’s got his head up and he makes some amazing plays. For him to come up with those two plays with the tying goal and winning goal, there’s pretty much nothing you can say. It’s pretty amazing.”
Yes, the winning goal was just the ribbon on the basket of goods Kane gave the Blackhawks on Friday. Prior to the winner, he had already provided Chicago with a power-play goal in the second period and set up Duncan Keith for the equalizer in the third.
Kane finished with two goals and one assist. Add in the four points he had in Game 5 and he has seven points over the past two games. He had one point over the first four games.
On the tying goal in the third period, Kane was skating with the puck away from the Kings’ net toward the blue line when he caught a glimpse of Keith moving up in the play. Kane sent a backhanded pass in the opposite direction he was headed and connected with Keith as he was progressing toward the net. Keith scored in the deep slot with 8:26 left in the period.
“It wasn't like the first time we've seen it with him,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said of Kane. “I don't think there's a player in the league that has a puck on his stick, time and possession in the course of a game, and he sees plays, makes plays. The bigger the stage, too, he likes that challenge.”
Kane was asked to explain why he excels where others fail in such key moments. He said he wasn't exactly sure.
“I don't know, you try to take it upon yourself to try and step up in big situations,” Kane said. “But we have a lot of guys that do that. I think with our team and the amount of great players that are on it, it seems like everyone has their time to step up and have the spotlight and be in that moment. There's been numerous guys that have done it. When it's your turn, it's always fun to contribute.”
Kane doesn't often let his turn slip past him, either.