The Chicago Blackhawks rarely find themselves in desperate situations in the postseason, but when those times arise, they tend to use a very effective weapon to cope with the pressure: combining the talents of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane onto the same line.
That option was exercised in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final on Wednesday night, and the move paid dividends as the Hawks got a goal and an assist from Kane and got another tally from Brandon Saad, the third man in on the line.
The group terrorized the Ducks throughout the game, and the results were successful as the Hawks won the game and forced a Game 7 in the series.
Now, with the scene shifting back to Anaheim for the deciding game, it appears as though the Blackhawks will stick with the line combination.
Toews and Kane once again were skating together on the top line during practice on Friday in southern California, with Byran Bickell and Marian Hossa skating with Brad Richards on the second line for the Blackhawks.
The question for the Blackhawks as the game looms is this: is the idea of keeping Kane and Toews together a good one?
On its face, it seems like a no-brainer.
The duo has always had a great deal of success when playing with each other on the ice, and they’ve practically been joined at the hip since they joined the Blackhawks for the 2007-08 season. They are two of the most dynamic players in the league, and they seem to bring out the best in each other as they each take pressure off of the other player in the offensive zone.
Aside from those obvious and very important points, there are reasons to potentially split them back up in Game 7.
For starters, there is the fact that the Ducks will have benefit of last line change, meaning that they will be able to decide which defensive group will go out against the line combination. In all likelihood, that means that the Ducks will use the Ryan Kesler line to slow down and intimidate the Hawks’ top line, and that would be a tough, albeit beatable, challenge for the group.
In addition to line matchup, there is the fact that the Hawks’ lines take a bit of a hit by loading up so heavily on the top line. Bickell and Hossa didn’t look like they found much chemistry together in Game 6 of the series, but with a potentially easier lineup matchup, that group could get some more space on the ice to produce.
There are pros and cons to the decision to keep Kane and Toews together, but one thing is for certain: the group gives the Ducks something else to think about in a big game, and they represent a secret weapon worth deploying.