When the Chicago Blackhawks took the ice for their morning skate Monday, their line combinations had a decidedly different feel as head coach Joel Quenneville split up Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
Toews remained on the top line with Brandon Saad, but Marian Hossa slotted onto the line and knocked Kane back down to the second grouping. Kane hit the ice with Brad Richards and Bryan Bickell, with Kris Versteeg coming out of the lineup and the bottom two lines remaining the same as they were in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.
The decision to split up Kane and Toews won’t become official until Game 3 starts on Monday night, but it’s still interesting to see Quenneville make the change when the team is going to be playing on home ice.
Victor Hedman and Cedric Paquette did a nice job of shutting down the Blackhawks’ top group in Tampa Bay in the first two games of this series, but Jon Cooper loses the ability to dictate that matchup as his team hits the road for the first time. Quenneville now has that coveted ability to have last line change, but it appears he’d rather get more depth on his top two lines than to load up and attack at will with the last change.
The question is whether or not that is the right move to use. Both Kane and Toews have struggled so far in the final, combining for just one point. The troubles have been especially hard for Kane to deal with, as he was held shotless in Game 2 Saturday night, only the third time in his NHL career that he’s been held without at least one shot in a playoff game.
The decision to break the pair up could be a bit of a ploy by Quenneville, but for now, it appears that the two players will have to break out of their collective slump on their own.