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Sunday, January 15, 2012
Toews-Stalberg-Kane line brilliant in win

By Jesse Rogers



CHICAGO -- Most hockey players are humble and have a hard time talking about themselves. But some nights things go too well to be downplayed.

That was the case for the Chicago Blackhawks' top line of Jonathan Toews, Viktor Stalberg and Patrick Kane on Sunday night, which was dominating in helping the Hawks to a 4-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks. The only thing close about the win was the final score, thanks mostly to that trio of Hawks.

“That was probably the best game we’ve had,” Stalberg said. “It seems like we’re getting better and better playing together… I don’t even know if they had a shot against us all game.”

The Sharks may not have, because the threesome played in the offensive end all night long, combining for two goals, five points and a whopping 17 shots on net. And they could have had more.

Jonathan Toews
The Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews celebrates after scoring his second-period goal on Sunday.
“It seemed like we had chances every shift,” Stalberg said. “We could have scored four, five, six goals tonight. Great win.”

It was a great win, and the line’s chemistry was more important than the two points the Hawks picked up in the standings. The NHL calendar is inching towards crunch time and the Hawks want to be ready.

“I thought we had one of our better games of all four lines going, as far as that rotation,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “That’s something we’re trying to nail the second half of the year.”

Known as a coach who will change lines just shifts into a game, hearing that Quenneville wants to “nail” some combinations must be music to ears of Hawks fans. Quenneville settled Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik onto the fourth line and let rookies play among the top nine. Andrew Shaw rewarded that faith with his fourth goal in just seven career contests. It was the game-winner.

“When things are going good, they’re going good,” Shaw said. “Just go to the net and good things happen.”

Shaw played with Marcus Kruger and Marian Hossa. That line showed chemistry as well, but Toews, Kane and Stalberg stole the show Sunday.

Stalberg, in particular, continues his growth as an emerging star. He used his speed to beat a defenseman to a spot on his goal, then used it again to snag a puck after a Kane dump-in to set up a Toews score.

“He’s playing unbelievable,” Kane said. “I told him great shift a bunch of times … He’s playing with confidence, that’s good. Just have to shut him up on the bench sometimes.”

Stalberg responded to the jab, saying he was surprised to chase down the Kane dump-in.

“I don’t know if Kane ever dumped a puck in but today he did and we ended scoring a goal on it,” Stalberg laughed. “We were joking around on the bench saying, ‘That’s not going to happen often.’ ”

Kane admitted he might have had a “career high” with three dump-ins, but figured the way his line was playing it would work out OK.

“The defenseman was stepping up on me,” he said. “Luckily it worked out.”

Toews, Kane and Stalberg. Maybe the three will stick as the glue to the Hawks’ offense as the team figures out what to do with their second line without Patrick Sharp or an experienced centerman.

If Sunday is any indication. the trio can carry the heavy load for a while until the rest is settled.