05/20/2009 9:17 AM - From ChicagoBlackhawks.com: (link)
The Chicago Blackhawks weren't going to win a game against the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Final with their two biggest stars -- Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews -- combing for just three shots like they did in Game 1.
In Game 2, both players were markedly better, and nearly helped Chicago even the series.
Toews scored a pair of goals and won nine of 14 faceoffs, while Kane had three shots and a number of other scoring opportunities.
"In Game 1 I didn't mind the way they played, but they were better tonight," said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. "I thought our whole group was way better tonight. I thought we had more consistency in our individual games and our team game. But I liked both of them and I thought they both had real good games."
Toews scored the game's first goal when he took a Martin Havlat pass below the goal line and banked a shot in front off the skate of Detroit's Jonathan Ericsson. And then in the third, he got to the net to deflect a Kris Versteeg shot behind Chris Osgood at 12:20 of the third period to tie the game, 2-2.
Toews, though, felt there was more to his game than just scoring. After being held to just three shots in Game 1 and winning just seven of 15 faceoffs, he felt his all-round game was better.
"It's not always just about the goal," Toews said. "I felt personally I created a little more offense, better on the puck, better on draws."
Toews said he felt stronger Tuesday night: "You play with a little more energy, you're going to protect the puck, keep plays alive and more is going to happen in the offensive zone, and I felt I did that. Everyone playing around me was hungry for offense, whether it was the power play or five-on-five. I thought we definitely created more chances, had more shots on net than we did in Game 1."
Kane's Game 2 was better his Game 1 in all phases too.
"I thought he was everywhere," said Toews. "He was handling the puck really well, he was moving his feet. I think he was definitely a threat to score tonight. I think it's easy to criticize a guy like that, who everyone is going to look to to score, especially in a situation like this, but we know he's bringing his best game every night.
"We know he's going to score a big one down the road for us here."
Part of the pair's improved play in Game 2 was the fact that Quenneville split the pair up. In Game 1, Toews centered Kane and Troy Brouwer, but in Game 2, Toews was between Brouwer and Dustin Byfuglien for most of the game. He was on the ice with Versteeg and Byfuglien when he scored his second goal.
Kane played most of the game on a line with center Sami Pahlsson and Versteeg. He also saw time with Pahlsson and Ben Eager.
Quenneville said he decided to change his lines from Game 1 to help the whole team, but it also allowed him to keep Kane or Toews away from Detroit's top defensive pairing, Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski.
"We just wanted a little more balance," said Quenneville. "Everybody has played with everybody throughout the year. … I think guys are compatible with whoever they're out there with. We've got some different options."
Toews said he and Kane enjoy playing together, but he sees the logic in being split from his frequent linemate.
"Sometimes to see us split up, it gives us a different look," said Toews. "All four lines have guys that can score, we all have that ability, so it's good to spread that out. I guess it worked for our line tonight and I got one in the third."
Whether Toews and Kane are reunited when the series shifts to Chicago for Games 3 and 4 and Quenneville is able to better control the matchups remains to be seen. Playing together or apart, though, the pair needs to produce, but it still needs to be a team effort.
"Everyone's got to get a little bit hungrier," said Toews. "If we keep digging down like that we're going to score some goals."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com.
Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Staff Writer