Reunited Kane, Toews hoping they’re on the verge of breaking out
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ST. LOUIS — For all of Patrick Kane’s on-ice exploits — the scoring title, the point streak, the remarkable offensive consistency over the years — the thing he prides himself most on is his big-game reputation. When the stakes are highest, Kane always has been at his best.
He won the Stanley Cup with an overtime goal in 2010. He knocked out the Los Angeles Kings in 2013 with a double-overtime winner that capped a hat trick. He eliminated the Minnesota Wild in 2014 with an OT winner. And his goal in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final last spring sealed a third championship in six seasons.
And that fruitful history has made his futile present that much more frustrating. Kane entered Thursday night’s Game 5 against the St. Louis Blues without a goal. But not without his chances.
“It’s tough when you get the chances and you’re not capitalizing, especially in big moments in the game,” said Kane, who only went four games without a goal five times all season. “I think I had a couple chances [in Game 4] in the second period that would have given us a 3-1 lead, or made it 3-2. You score one of those, it’s a totally different game.”
A totally different series, too. In such a remarkably even series, the fact that Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Andrew Ladd — the Hawks’ biggest guns — combined for zero goals through the first four games is the most significant reason they found themselves facing elimination Thursday night. Last spring alone, Kane had 11 goals, and Toews had 10.
The chances have been there. Kane has had multiple breakaways and 2-on-1 opportunities. Toews has had rebounds in the crease to pounce on. Hossa, as he has all season, has been all around the net with little to show for it. And Ladd has been a wrecking ball in the series, but hasn’t found the back of the net.
It’s had as much to do with Blues goaltender Brian Elliott’s brilliance as it’s had with the Hawks stars’ inability to finish.
“You can get as many chances as you want, but it comes down to producing,” Kane said. “Hopefully [since] the chances are there, [we’re] on the verge of breaking though.”
Of course, Kane and Toews, in particular, have historically turned it on later in series. Toews’ two-goal outburst in Game 5 against Anaheim last spring turned the series around. And as he often does in desperate times — whether it’s when the Hawks are trailing in a game or in a series — Joel Quenneville put the two superstars on the same line for Game 5 in an effort to get them going.
“It seems like in the past, it’s helped lots of times,” said Hossa, who was bumped down to a new-look third line with Ladd and Marcus Kruger. “Those two guys are magicians. Little shakeups when things aren’t going right help.”
The Blues, naturally, are always aware of when Kane and Toews are on the ice. Troy Brouwer said it was a “collective” effort to keep them off the scoreboard, but St. Louis knows it’s all but impossible to shut them down completely.
“We give them a lot of respect,” Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. “They’re guys who are, at any given moment, dangerous. And they don’t need much space, they don’t need much time, and they don’t really need much momentum going in their favor to feel like they can score a goal. They’ve had their chances, there’s no doubt about it. I think we’ve kind of approached the whole thing knowing that they’re tremendous hockey players, they’re going to get their scoring chances. It’s how we’re going to minimize it and how we can eliminate second and third opportunities, as well.”
Hossa got a much-needed boost in Game 4 when his shot banked in off Andrew Shaw. Like Kane, Toews and Ladd, the hope was that one quick goal could open the floodgates. The Hawks’ season all but depends on it.
“You feel like you’re having shots, you’re having chances, and the puck doesn’t go in,” Hossa said. “It’s a little frustration. But you try not to get frustrated, because then you’re not playing your way. You try to stay positive because there are lots of chances. One ugly one, and hopefully it’s going to go in.”
NOTE: David Rundblad will play for the first time since Dec. 13, likely in for Michal Rozsival. Dale Weise and Brandon Mashinter draw back into the lineup, with Shaw suspended for using a homophobic slur in Game 4, and Tomas Fleischmann a likely healthy scratch.