by Scott King
Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have been providing fans with comfort during the most disappointing season since before their Stanley Cup run began.
Like anything that picks up momentum, the last thing you want is time away from the ice to let it cool off (or harden?). … Enter All-Star break.
The Blackhawks, who will likely be eliminated from playoff contention for a second consecutive year after 10 straight postseason appearances, have had a mostly down season.
They fired the coach who led them to three Stanley Cup titles, their two-time Stanley Cup champion goalie is out with another concussion and their veteran defensemen have seen better days.
With that said, the up has been very refreshing in spite of all the doom and gloom. The Hawks are getting the best out of the superstars, now 30, they’ve built a team around.
Kane is on pace for a career best in goals and assists with 29 and 42 through 50 games. Toews is en route to a career high in points after already surpassing his goal total for the past two seasons. He has 22 goals and 26 assists in 51 games.
The dynamic duo’s production has been even more noticeable as they’ve skated alongside each other on the Blackhawks’ top line the past couple games.
“Yeah, we haven’t really played together in a while (prior to Sunday), so you know, coming up I would say maybe our first three or four years we were playing with each other a lot.
“But ever since then, we’ve mostly been on separate lines, which has worked out pretty well for us. So, for whatever reason, they made the switch (Saturday) and we knew we were going to play together (on Sunday), and I think we did pretty well with it.”
Toews netted his sixth career hat trick and two assists in Sunday’s 8-5 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. Kane had five points as well, with two goals and three assists.
“We can play together for a long time and might not always get games like that obviously,” Toews said after the game. “I think today the chances that we did get we converted and he was doing a good job in his own end chipping pucks out and their D men really pressuring so we got some odd-men rushes and I think Drake (Caggiula) did a great job of going to the net and creating space.”
The pair also looked stellar in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout win against the red-hot New York Islanders. Toews had the game-tying goal with 22 seconds remaining in the second period, Kane had an assist and both scored in the shootout.
Kane now sits one point away from 900 in the NHL.
“It’s nice,” Toews said. “You want to be able to enjoy yourself. Definitely put hockey off your mind for a few days. It’s to your advantage to do that and really come back fresh. So it’s nice to get a win going into it.”
The Blackhawks next play the Buffalo Sabres on the road Feb. 1 following the five-day break after Saturday’s All-Star game. Given the consistency of and dedication to production all season-long from both players, it’s a safe bet the Kane and Toews show will continue after the break, even if it takes a couple game to re-ignite some momentum.
It’ll certainly help if Chicago’s “nuclear line” stays together as well.
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