Joel Quenneville finally splits up Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane

SHARE Joel Quenneville finally splits up Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane

Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov will be back together Wednesday night in San Jose. (Getty Images)

SAN JOSE, Calif. — It’s easy to assume that any time Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are on the ice together, the Blackhawks are going to score goals in bunches. But hockey’s not that simple, and the dynamic duo’s 13 games together were sometimes great, sometimes lousy, and usually just kind of mediocre.

“The two of us obviously want to go out there and create every single shift,” Toews said. “But sometimes, if you’re off by one play, or if you’re off by just a step or two, you’re not going to get the results, especially with the way the game is nowadays. It’s so fast, and there’s not really much of a margin for error. We can’t be too hard on ourselves.”

Joel Quenneville’s grand experiment — putting his two biggest stars on the same line in the regular season for the first time since the late 2000s — ended on Wednesday, as the Hawks coach went back to what he wanted all along, and what he knows works.

Kane is back on the second line with Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov, reforming a line that was arguably the best in hockey last season. And Toews is back with his longtime right-hand man, Marian Hossa, whose scoring explosion with the Russians was the only reason Quenneville waited so long to split up Toews and Kane.

“That’s probably why we waited longer here,” said Quenneville, who prefers to keep Toews and Kane apart to force opponents to pick their poison from a matchup standpoint. “[Hossa] was still scoring, and I think he can still score with Jonny. We still think there’s enough offense to go around with him on another line. We probably kept them together longer than we thought we would.”

It wasn’t all bad for Toews and Kane. In those 13 games, Toews had four goals and six assists, while Kane had four goals and eight assists. But most of those points came early on in the experiment. Toews entered Wednesday night’s game against the San Jose Sharks with no goals and two assists in his last seven games, and Kane hadn’t scored in the first four games of the circus trip. With the Hawks falling 4-0 in Winnipeg and 5-0 in Edmonton on the trip, Quenneville had to do something to shake things up offensively.

“We’re trying to get a little more balance in our scoring,” Quenneville said. “This trip hasn’t been very productive in generating offense or generating scoring chances, or enough sustained pressure in the offensive zone.”

Toews has been fighting frustration all season, as he opened the season with another lengthy goal drought of eight games. Even a player with 255 career regular season goals, a guy who is the model of consistency with 28 goals in each of his past three seasons, can start squeezing the stick too tightly.

“There’s no doubt,” Toews said. “You lose perspective pretty quickly sometimes when you have a bit of a drought. It’s just getting back to the feeling I’ve already had a couple games this year, where things are really clicking and flowing and pucks were going in. I have to try and remember what that feels like, play loose, not have expectations — just go out there and play and make things happen.”

Kane hasn’t been quite so stymied this season, with 20 points in 20 games. But he was at another level with Panarin and Anisimov, winning the scoring title last season with a career-high 46 goals and 106 points. Playing with the creative, puck-handling Kane is a lot different than playing with the defensive-minded, net-crashing Hossa, but Anisimov said the trio would have no trouble falling back into old, wildly successful habits.

While Quenneville was looking for some instant offense with Toews and Kane 13 games ago, he knows he’ll get it with his reunited second line.

“No doubt,” Anisimov said. “We spent some time without him, but now we’re together and it’s going to be refreshed.”


Twitter: @marklazerus

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