CHICAGO -- Patrick Kane wasn’t sure how long he and Jonathan Toews would be reunited when Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville told them to get on the ice together midway through the first period on Wednesday.
Back in the day, Kane and Toews were nearly inseparable as linemates. As rookies, they spent 658-plus even-strength minutes together. That number has dwindled over the years, as Quenneville has decided it's best for the team’s balance to have his two best players on different lines. They played a career-low 144 minutes, 53 seconds together during this past regular season.
Quenneville wasn’t just tinkering Wednesday, though. The Blackhawks were in a must-win situation as they faced elimination in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals against the Anaheim Ducks. And as Quenneville has done previously in similar situations, he hit his Kane-and-Toews panic button.
Kane and Toews didn’t let him down. They factored into two of the team’s first three goals, and the Blackhawks went on to a 5-2 victory to force Game 7.
“I didn’t expect it, to be honest with you,” said Kane, who scored a goal and had a primary assist. “When he put us together, I think we were just trying to do as best as we can out there. We didn’t know how long it was going to be, how long it was going to last. We scored a couple goals and tried to play the right way defensively, too.”
Quenneville came into the game thinking he might put Kane and Toews out there together. He did it for a bit during the third period of Game 5 and liked how they played. Quenneville began Game 6 with the same lines he had started the prior three games; but at the 10-minute mark of the first period and the game scoreless, he called on Kane and Toews.
“We were ready to try it,” Quenneville said. “Down a game here, we tried it. Sometimes you go to the mindset of the game, we'll see what happens initially, but you're ready to go to it. Sometimes whether you're down, we were tied at the time, just an ordinary start, then it picked up.”
During the first few shifts, Kane thought they were going through a feeling-out process. It really had been a while since they consistently enjoyed five-on-five ice time together. But as the shifts added up, they began getting into a groove again and the chances started to come. After Wednesday’s game, Kane and Toews have combined for 18 goals and 20 assists in 13 career Game 6s.
Normally, Kane prefers to have the puck on his stick and create that way, but he finds it's a different scenario when he plays with Toews.
“Sometimes you have to defer to him a little bit, because he can make so many plays,” Kane said. “He’s strong on the puck. He’s great two ways. I think everyone would agree, as far as a winger standpoint, he’s probably the easiest player to play with in the league.”
Blackhawks forward Brandon Saad said he felt the same about both Kane and Toews. He was the one lucky enough to be the third forward on their line in Game 6. Saad held his own and scored the game’s first goal.
“Those two players, they’re so good by themselves. But when you put them together, they’re a pretty dynamic duo there,” Saad said. “I had fun playing with them tonight, and hopefully we can continue to have some success.”
Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw also described Kane and Toews as a “duo.”
“When you have two amazing players playing together, good things can happen,” Shaw said. “They’re both competitive. They both work hard, and they both can make plays, and they both play great defensively. It’s one of those duos you love to have on your side.”
And now that the duo has been reunited, it’s unlikely they’ll be separated again. For the Ducks to defeat the Blackhawks in Game 7, they'll have to defeat Kane and Toews.