Blackhawks stars Kane, Toews struggling
Hockey Night in Canada panel critical of Chicago forwards
It appeared as though Elliotte Friedman couldn’t believe what he had just seen.
With the Chicago Blackhawks down 1-0 in the third period Thursday night and trailing 2-1 in their second-round playoff series against Detroit, top forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews were on the ice for the first 40 seconds of a power play and then skated to the bench.
What also surprised the Hockey Night in Canada analyst was the fact Kane only had three shifts in the final 11 minutes of regulation. Chicago lost 2-0 and faces elimination at home Saturday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 8 p.m. ET) after finishing the regular season with the most points in the NHL with 77 in 48 contests.
"That’s amazing in a one-goal game," Friedman told viewers. "[Kane’s last shift] was after Dan Cleary’s [empty-net goal] to make it 2-0 [Red Wings]."
Kane, Toews and their teammates simply haven’t scored enough with only five goals in the first four games, said New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, a guest analyst on the Hockey Night panel.
Toews had 23 goals in 47 regular-season games, tops on the Blackhawks and fifth in the league, but has yet to find the back of the net in nine playoff starts.
"There’s a lot of elements to his game that help our team game," Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville told reporters. "We don’t measure just his contribution offensively."
A Winnipeg native, Toews hustles, forechecks and is getting to the front of the Red Wings net, but clearly the frustration of a tough playoffs is getting to him.
"Emotions run high in some of these games," Toews said after Thursday’s defeat, "and my stick got a little loose there. I was playing hard. Sometimes that happens."
What never happened during the regular season was Toews taking three minor penalties in a game, let alone in a span of five minutes 39 seconds. But it occurred Thursday, with the 25-year-old centre being assessed a pair of high-sticking penalties and a hooking minor.
"I think he’s trying too hard and gets caught up [in the heat of the moment]. It’s not working so he gets frustrated and it leads to penalties," said Hockey Night analyst P.J. Stock.
For Game 4, Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville replaced Toews on the top forward line with fourth-liner Michal Handzus while Toews skated alongside Bryan Bickell and Kane on the second unit.
Toews also hasn’t been able to solve the smothering defensive play of Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg. While Kane, a 23-goal man in the regular season, has scored twice and added an assist in the series, he has been criticized for his work ethic at times in this post-season.
"I’d love to see Kane get mad," Stock said. "How many times does he just give up on a play … go to the bench and doesn’t change [lines] hard?
"It frustrates your coach and that’s one of your best players, and he’s not giving you the effort you need to win."
Kane could rebound in a must-win Game 5, but it might be too late to save Chicago’s season.