- Scott Powers, Reporter
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Toews on one line and Kane on another makes the Blackhawks more dangerous across the board, in Quenneville's opinion. But when the Blackhawks are desperate for goals and playing in a series where scoring can be difficult, such as vs. the St. Louis Blues in their first-round series, Quenneville isn't reluctant to go Voltron on his opponents and unite Kane and Toews.
Quenneville displayed different lines during the morning skate and warm-ups prior to Game 3 on Monday, but he combined Toews and Kane along with Bryan Bickell to start the game. The line produced one goal in Chicago's 2-0 win and created about as many shot attempts as they allowed, and Quenneville liked what he saw from the trio. In the series, Chicago trails St. Louis 2-1.
"We talked last night that their anticipation offensively and their familiarity with one another, their playmaking and patience with the puck [is what Toews and Kane bring to us]," Quenneville said Tuesday. "I think [Bickell] brings a little bit something as well. I think as you go through a series, you look for things that might possibly work. I thought that line was effective last night.
"We thought last year in the playoffs when they did get together, whether they started a series or a middle of a series, that they seemed to get excited about it. I know [Toews] would like to play with [Kane], and we like that balance that it presents when they're apart. Sometimes in a course of a series you try it. I thought last night it was OK."
Kane and Toews were once inseparable for Quenneville. During the Blackhawks' 2009-10 Stanley Cup season, Kane and Toews shared the ice for 678:42 in 5-on-5 situations, according to stats.hockeyanalysis.com. The next season they were together for 722:47.
Over the last couple seasons, Quenneville's mentality has changed. He's opted to split them up. Last season, they shared the ice for just 99:41 in 5-on-5 situations. This season, their shared ice time has been 212:53.
Even though Kane and Toews haven't been together as much over the past few seasons, Kane believes they still understand each other's game.
"That's something when you kind of grow up with someone, and you're together for this long and know someone for this long, I think it helps when you play with each other on the ice," Kane said on Tuesday. "Our first few years, it seems like we played together a lot. Lately, not as much, but still, when you get together you try to figure out what was successful when you did play together and try to use that when you're on the ice together."
The duo showed off that chemistry in Game 1 when Toews connected with Kane on a stretch pass, freeing Kane for a breakaway goal.
"I feel like on the offensive side, we both do some different things, but both try and read the game the same way, to the point where we're getting chances offensively," Kane said. "I don't know, last night we had a few chances that it would have been nice to bury, especially some that he gave me. It would be nice to have those back, but like I said, hopefully as we get some more chemistry, we're able to bury those and take advantage of our opportunities."
Toews said Monday that the familiarity and confidence are in place whenever he and Kane step on the ice together.
"There's just lots of confidence there," Toews said after Game 3. "I think we know what to expect. We know that every shift we go out there that we can get that puck possession and create stuff, and the more we create the more it's going to go in. We got one early tonight and didn't find a way after that, but we still had some great chances."
Quenneville said he is likely going to keep the pair together going forward. Kane believes the line is capable of more.
"I still feel that we could probably play a little bit better," Kane said. "We haven't played with each other much throughout the season, so it was, I think anytime you play together you get excited about playing with each other. We had some success last year in the playoffs together, too.
"I'm sure anytime anyone gets a chance to play with [Toews] they're excited because he's such an easy player to play with. Yeah, it was nice to get the early goal and we were playing against their top line most of the night, too, so you've got to have some responsibility there. But hopefully, as time goes on, if we stay together, we just keep getting better and better."