Toews makes it clear for Chicago Blackhawks

“When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.”

Remember that old ad campaign? Two actors talking about what to do with their money and the second would say, “Well, my broker’s E.F. Hutton and E.F. Hutton says …”

At that point, everyone on an airplane, in a classroom or in a restaurant would go completely silent and crane their necks to hear the forthcoming advice.

E.F. Hutton was that good!

“When Jonathan Toews talks, Blackhawks management and coaches listen.”

I have no idea if that is actually true, but two recent examples certainly made me sit up and pay attention.

The first came after the Chicago Blackhawks were eliminated by St. Louis in the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs when Toews said all the constant roster juggling made it difficult for players to form any long-lasting chemistry.

(Is it merely a coincidence that the Hawks have made very few moves this season?)

The other comment came just last week after a practice at Johnny’s IceHouse West, and it had to do with the revolving door on Toews’ line.

Coach Joel Quenneville has paired Toews with 15 different winger combinations in the captain’s 47 games. Toews isn’t one to criticize those above him very often, but on that day he sent a clear message that it would be nice to enjoy the same consistency as Patrick Kane enjoys with Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov.

“You look at Arty, the Bread Man and Kaner, as good as they’ve been you don’t really remember them for the game they might have been off or they didn’t score,” Toews said. “You give them some time to recover and they’ll get back on the horse and get their offense going.

“Sometimes it is tough when you have to start that chemistry over. Sometimes it’s midway through games or it’s a couple times per week. Sometimes, even if I go a few games without scoring or producing, it’d be nice to start to build that chemistry and start to know where the other two guys are on your line.”

Wow. Powerful stuff.

You almost wonder if Quenneville became aware of those words, craned his neck a bit and thought to himself, “OK, let’s keep things the same for a little while.”

Quenneville said moving guys around is a “feel thing” based on what he’s seeing and how the lines are producing and defending. Before the team left for Minnesota last week, he suggested that maybe — just maybe — he’s not going to make many significant changes going forward.

“Our puck-possession game has improved and our four-line rotation has gotten better,” Quenneville said. “That’s where we wanted to be anyway, so if you change lines going forward it’ll be a little tweaking.”

Toews, who has 13 points in the last nine games, hasn’t started a game with the same two wingers for more than seven games all season. That “record” finally would fall if Quenneville keeps Nick Schmaltz and Richard Panik with Toews for three more games.

That combination not only looked solid together, but they also are producing together. In the Hawks’ 4-3 win over Minnesota last week, Schmaltz and Panik both scored and were assisted by Toews, who potted the game-winner in overtime.

“We’ve got that confidence going and we want to build on it. Not just sit around and be OK with it,” Toews told reporters two days later in Winnipeg. “When you start playing well, you start getting a feel for what it’s like to play with a couple of linemates.

“You want to continue to build on that confidence and continue to be predictable and make plays and know where everyone’s going to be on the ice. So we’ll look to keep working on that.”

After defeating the Jets, the Hawks went on to throttle Edmonton 5-1, getting 2 goals from Panik (with Toews assisting on one), and a power-play goal from Patrick Kane in which Panik and Toews both registered assists.

Kane (4G, 5A last nine games) hopes his longtime teammate continues the run he’s on.

“Hopefully we can keep moving up in the standings,” Kane said, “and for all of us in here — Jonny included — get hot, get feeling good before the playoffs and be playing the right way at the right time.”

• Follow John on Twitter @johndietzdh.

Source: Sports

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