The Chicago Blackhawks are in the spot that was expected of them before the season even started. After a surprising 5-4-2 start, they are now 6-11-4, which is the worst in the Central Division and second-worst in the entire league. They have only mustered one point since Nov. 12 and lost 13 of their last 15 games. Head coach Luke Richardson said it is fatiguing trying to put it all together to get in the win column, but there is something new they are trying at practice; reuniting Kane and Toews on the first line. It’s the correct move, and here are some takeaways on why that is.
Blackhawks Desperately Need a Shakeup
Something needs to change when a team is on a seven-game losing streak, like the Blackhawks. Whether it’s a callup from the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League (AHL) or making a trade, both of those scenarios seem unlikely before the Hawks take on the Edmonton Oilers on Nov. 30. They are likely going to keep trying to find the solutions in house.
Unfortunately, the answers are not easy when it comes to offense. Their offense is second-worst in the league, with an average of 2.48 goals scored per game. Max Domi has seven points in his last nine games but only has one goal in November. Andreas Athanasiou only has three goals in his previous 12 outings, and Philipp Kurashev and Patrick Kane each have one goal in their last 15 games. The only ones currently riding a hot streak are Taylor Raddysh, with two goals in his previous two games, and Jujhar Khaira, who has two goals in his last three games.
The only other player to mention is Toews as he is the team’s leading goalscorer with eight goals. Kane has been struggling to score with Domi and Athanasiou on the top line, and although Toews has the most goals on the team, he has gone a bit cold as well, with only three goals in his last 10 games. Therefore, it’s beneficial to pair Kane and Toews together. In addition, the Blackhawks have had issues scoring the first goal of the game and have surrendered the first goal in eight straight games (17 of their last 21 games in total). Pairing Kane and Toews together would provide a new scoring threat on the first line and a good chance for the Blackhawks to finally score first. If they do that, that will automatically give them an excellent opportunity to win.
Kane and Toews Provide Results
The hard part about finding results for the Blackhawks is that over half of the players are new to the team. Although the Blackhawks are 21 games into the season, it’s clear that chemistry still needs to improve in many areas. Toews, Raddysh, and Tyler Johnson clicked immediately on the second line, and the third line of Jason Dickinson, Sam Lafferty, and Kurashev was effective. Outside of that, no one has found a rhythm with one another. Coach Richardson has made some adjustments, like adding Khaira and Colin Blackwell to the third line and adding Kurashev in the top six, but those changes have come from injuries and out of hope that it could work.
Kane and Toews are a different story, as the organization doesn’t have to wonder if pairing them together would be an effective measure. They have played together for over a decade, and the results are there. The Blackhawks have a record of 91-8-5 when they both score in a game. For more reference, according to Natural Stat Trick, over 15 years, when they play together at 5-on-5, their goals-for to goals-against ratio is 297-229.
It worked again this season against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Nov. 20. Kane and Toews were on the ice together in the second period because it was a 4-on-4, and Kane scored a goal to break a 10-game drought. Who got the primary assist, you ask? Toews. Kane has not scored since.
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The kicker here is that putting them together is not always the first option that comes to mind for the coaching staff. Even former head coach Joel Quenneville didn’t like pairing them together unless they were in dire need of offense. Granted, the teams from the dynasty era didn’t need them to play together because there was so much talent throughout the lineup. Putting them together now with this current team might be even more unpopular, as keeping them apart helps spread depth and talent out more. Yet the point remains, pairing them has always been a good option to fall back on, and it works.
The situation the Blackhawks are in is dire. They need offense and will continue having a hard time unless something changes. They have to get Kane going again, and the game against the Penguins showed that Toews could help. Pairing them together won’t be a miracle, as it won’t make them playoff contenders, but it could help the morale in the locker room. If those two can produce offense to a point where it helps them get back in the win column, that could be more important than anything else.
It’s clear the locker room is defeated, and they need something positive. So, what’s the harm in trying it out for a game and seeing if it gives the team a spark in any way? Every team has an “in case of an emergency” line. The Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl duo are a good example, as they are always put together by the Edmonton Oilers if needed.
Related: Jonathan Toews: Beyond the Glory
Finding the solution for the Blackhawks might be challenging, but taking advantage of their life raft with a Kane and Toews ensemble while it’s still available to them is smart business.
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Just a small-town girl with Midwestern charm, combined with a love of dogs, writing, frappuccinos, Chicago-isms, sports, and a whole lot of Blackhawks hockey. I have covered the Chicago Blackhawks since 2020 and am passionate about sharing in-depth analysis within the team and highlighting the fun because, after all, hockey is fun! You can quickly connect with me on Twitter: @brooke_lofo.