Chicago Blackhawks: Jonathan Toews and the Top Line Still Looking to Click
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The Chicago Blackhawks nearly swiped Game 3 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series in Minnesota Sunday afternoon. The Wild's 3-2 overtime win doesn't come as a surprise in that the urgency was squarely in the Minnesota camp.
What may be a bit of a head-turner is the output Chicago has received from its top forward line. Such output hasn't shown up on the scoreboard to speak of.
Jonathan Toews is in an unfamiliar position as we wait for the series to continue Tuesday. In three games, Toews has failed to register a point against the Wild.
Linemate Brandon Saad is also scoreless at this point of the series. However, do I expect more in the postseason from Chicago's captain as opposed to the less-experienced Saad? You bet I do.
Now, let's not make this out to be open season on Toews. After all, this isn't his first go-around on the Stanley Cup trail. Toews has been very effective at the dot in this series, winning over 60 percent of his draws. It's just a bit jarring to watch him go pointless in three straight games.
You have to go back to February to find a comparable stretch of futility for Tazer. The captain went four straight games without a point from Feb. 19-25. In fact, Toews scored in just two games of what was a seven-game homestand for a total of three points.
Of course, Toews wound up the regular season among the NHL elite with 48 points in 47 games. He also led the 'Hawks in scoring in last year's playoffs. It's not time to panic.
Should fans be concerned that the top line has struggled to put up points so far in this series with Minnesota?
Marian Hossa has a goal and an assist in the series, though both came while playing with Patrick Kane. The going has been tough for Chicago's top line. This can easily be attributed to Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin, who have been able to neutralize Toews and company.
On the other hand, the second and third lines have prospered for 14 points against the Wild. If Toews' line draws the bulk of the defense's attention and Chicago's depth prevails, it still gets the Blackhawks to the next round.
A physical Wild effort definitely hampered the 'Hawks for a large portion of the contest Sunday. However, Toews had a hand in the goal that eventually sent the game into extra time for the second time in three games.
As Toews was coming off the ice for a line change with just under three minutes to play, he drew contact from Cal Clutterbuck, who was also heading for a change. The time Clutterbuck took to his exit was a big part of Duncan Keith's equalizer.
Minutes later, a great individual effort by Toews nearly resulted in an incredible goal that would have given Chicago the lead. It was a move reminiscent of his legendary goal that tied Game 7 with Vancouver back in 2011. It just wasn't to be as Josh Harding made the save.
Toews is too good a player for his playoff goose egg to be a huge issue. He's getting the job done in several areas. Like Saad, he is generating some scoring opportunities even as they take on Minnesota's top defensive pairing. It should just be a matter of time before Toews plays matchmaker for rubber and twine or sets up a teammate on a scoring play.
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