The Boston Bruins had one full off day Sunday, all the hours of prep leading up to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final tonight and the few minutes in the first period to solve a huge problem.
The newly-constructed Blackhawks first line of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Bryan Bickell has amassed 10 points in the last two games – five in each contest – as the Hawks took a 3-2 advantage in the best-of-seven series.
And the only way the Bruins seemed to slow down the line was to knock Toews out of the third period of Game 5 Saturday via a couple of hard, but legal, hits. The Hawks captain spent the rest of the game nursing his pain on the bench.
Famous postseason line-tinkerer Joel Quenneville cobbled the pairing together almost out of desperation. The Hawks appeared disjointed in a Game 3 the Bruins dominated in Boston.
So Quenneville went against his strategy to prevent the physical Bruins defense, led by man-mountain Zdeno Chara, from keying on all his scorers assembled in one place. He summoned Kane from the second line and Bickell from the third.
Spreading firepower among different lines has been a reason Toews and Kane have not been a regular combination under Quenneville.
They’re linked in so many other ways, namely the revival of the franchise upon their arrival in 2007 and in TV commercials. But the Hawks’ glamour boys are poetry in motion on the ice when they play together.
Meanwhile, Bickell complements the pair with physicality and his own nose for the net.
“We're different style players,” Kane said of Toews. “But I think we complement each other very well. We've played together for six years now. I know we didn't play together very much this year, but throughout times in the past you can look back at those times that we've had success. He's a great player. He makes it easy to play hockey.”
Three goals in the last two games has been the testimony to Kane’s presence on the new line. He has nine goals in 22 postseason games.
Toews had been way below his standard in scoring in the playoffs, even requiring a couple of pep talks from defenseman Brent Seabrook. He said he won’t change his all-around game to accommodate one dimension.
“I don't think it means to cheat or to get away from your defensive game because that's not something you want to do, especially when you're up against (David) Krejci’s or (Patrice) Bergeron's line,” Toews said.
Kane’s not concerned about Toews’ scoring pace.
“He brings it every night, whether he's scoring or not,” he said. “He's still bringing the same competitiveness and leadership that we need. That's one guy we're not worried about.”
Bickell said he’ll use his top talent to pave the way for Toews and Kane.
“To get in front for me and to be physical to open ice up for those two, it’s important,” he said. “Given the puck, they’re going to make things happen.”