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Hawks' top line looks to pick up its play

Sunday, 05.30.2010 / 10:53 PM / News
By Dave Lozo  - NHL.com Staff Writer
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Hawks\' top line looks to pick up its play
Chicago wasn\'t lacking for offense in its Game 1 win, but the top line was held scoreless and posted a dismal minus-9 rating.


CHICAGO
--  It was a strange sight to behold. Jonathan Toews, standing at his locker after his Blackhawks won Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, looking like he had just single-handedly lost the game.
 
Toews was happy with the 6-5 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers, but clearly perturbed with the play of his top line. Toews, Patrick Kane and Dustin Byfuglien were held off the scoreboard and combined for a minus-9 after they were on the ice for three Flyers goals, including Arron Asham's score that tied the game at 5-5 late in the second period.

It was completely out of character for a group that had totaled 15 goals and 25 assists in nine games since they were thrown together during Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Vancouver Canucks.
 
"We're not happy with the way we played, especially in the first couple periods," said Toews, who had his franchise record 13-game point-scoring streak snapped Saturday. "You're bound to have a game like that where things don't go your way. When you look at the score sheet and it doesn't look pretty for our line. You get ticked off about it and you move on. We're not going to let it become anything bigger than it actually is."
 
The poor performance can be more easily swept under the rug thanks to the play of Chicago's supporting cast.
 
Shutdown forwards Dave Bolland, Kris Versteeg and Tomas Kopecky each had a goal and an assist, including Kopecky's game-winner in the third period. Troy Brouwer had 2 goals and assist while playing on the second line with Patrick Sharp (1 goal) and Marian Hossa (2 assists).  
 
According to Kane, his line's biggest problem was puck possession.
 
"Five-on-five, I think we can play a lot better, collectively as a line," Kane said. "I think Buff had 10 hits, but that just shows how much we were chasing the puck around. Sometimes it's good when he has a lot of hits and he's getting the puck back and we're making plays. But we don't want him to have that many. We want to have the puck and be making plays."
 
The line was matched up mostly against Flyers defensemen Chris Pronger and Matt Carle along with forwards Scott Hartnell, Daniel Briere and Ville Leino. That's not exactly your prototypical checking line, but Pronger has shown throughout his Hall-of-Fame career he can dominate anyone and has the size and strength to combat the 6-foot-4, 257-pound Byfuglien.

"We'll give credit to some of their defensemen that played well," Toews said. "As a line, I think all three of us know it's not as much what they did as it is what we didn't do on the ice. I think we were maybe chasing the puck a little too much. We weren't protecting it. We weren't supporting each other."
 
Kane said one reason the line had a hard time getting into the game early was the lack of a power-play opportunity. Never playing with the man-advantage makes the trio's five shots a little more understandable, but certainly not acceptable for Kane.
 
"I think that's the biggest thing, especially with myself, is to not get frustrated," Kane said. "Hopefully we can be a lot better and step up and make up for (Game 2). It'd be nice to step up and do some special things here, especially at this kind of level. I know all three of us don't want blow that opportunity.
 
"We know we can play better."
 
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DLozoNHL

Author: Dave Lozo | NHL.com Staff Writer