Tag: Patrick Kane

Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews

Kane, Toews may have toughest assignment yet in Hedman, Stralman


TAMPA — Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have gone up against some pretty formidable defensive pairings in these Stanley Cup playoffs.

Fitting, because they’re about to face another one — possibly the best so far.

Prior to Wednesday’s series opener, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said that Kane and Toews can expect to see a lot of his ace pairing of Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman in the coming days.

“Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are two of the best players this league has seen in a long time,” Cooper explained. “But we feel Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, we go down our list and think, maybe we’re not too bad ourselves. Let’s prove to everybody you can play against these guys.

“In saying that, they’ll probably see a high dose of Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman.”

Cooper admitted that while line matching is important, getting the right defensive pair out against forwards is imperative. So it’ll be interesting to see the chess game that unfolds with Kane and Toews — assuming Joel Quenneville keeps the pieces together.

There has been talk of possibly splitting up Kane and Toews, who starred in the Anaheim series while playing together; Toews finished with five goals and two assists, Kane three and four. Quenneville was non-committal about his plans earlier this week — saying “we’ll see” and “it’s nice having some flexibility” — and, of course, his penchant for firing up the ol’ line blender is well-documented.

“Joel changes lines quite a bit,” Cooper noted. “We’ll just have to see how things go, how things start. I can’t predict what he’s going to do.

“I’m fairly certain the lineup he starts with won’t be the lineup he finishes with. He’ll move things around.”

Hedman and Stralman are superior to any of the pairings Anaheim put out in the Western Conference final. At 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds, Hedman brings tremendous physicality while the cerebral Stralman, lauded for his ability to read the game, always seems to be in the right position to make a play. Both of their skill sets will come into play if they’re tasked with Toews and Kane, who can beat opponents in a variety of ways.

“Their hockey IQ is combined as good as they come,” veteran Bolts forward Brenden Morrow said. “You put them together, they’re pretty tough. [Toews] wins all his one on one battles, and Kane is the setup guy, playmaker with quick hands.

“They’re both tough to contain as individuals, but you put them together, that makes it that much tougher.”

‘Home-grown talent’ a staple of Blackhawks and Lightning


TAMPA — It’s a fine line that NHL general managers have to walk in the salary-cap era. On the one hand, everyone knows it’s important to develop prospects properly, and that rushing youngsters can be ruinous.

“It’s very difficult to just jump into the NHL and be an impact player,” said Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman. “It’s not easy. The schedule, the travel, the different buildings you go into. I mean, you have to experience all that so you sort of get that out of the way, then you can play hockey.”

On the other hand, young players are inexpensive, and there aren’t many, if any, teams that win the Stanley Cup without youngsters making a major contribution.

“You need young players to succeed in this day and age,” confirmed Bowman, who would certainly know.

Not only do youngsters come with a relatively low cap hit, they possess certain physical attributes that make them ideally suited for the pace of today’s NHL.

“That’s kind of what today’s game is getting to, that quick and speed game,” said Lightning veteran Brenden Morrow. “I think those young legs really help.”

As such, those one, two, or three years after a prospect is drafted have become more vital than ever.

“What we try to do with our young players is not rush them to the point where the expectations are unrealistic,” said Bowman. “We try to give these guys a chance. When they do make it into the NHL, they’ve had some time to develop their game, to gain some confidence usually in the [American Hockey League].

The Lightning, like the Blackhawks, are stocked with players that they’ve drafted and developed.

“When you look back at any team that gets to this point, any team that has any kind of long‑term sustained success, it’s really true home‑grown talent,” said GM Steve Yzerman. “It’s just impossible, even more so with the salary cap, to try to build a team to be successful over a period of time just through free agency and through trades.”

Oh, and it helps to have a bit of good fortune too.

“We’ve been lucky,” said Yzerman. “If we’d have known [Ondrej Palat] was going to be that good, we wouldn’t have waited ’til the seventh round to get him.”

In 2010, when the Blackhawks won their first Cup since 1961, Jonathan Toews was only 22 and Patrick Kane was just 21.

Whoever wins it this year will have players of a similar age.

If it’s Chicago, it’ll be 22-year-old Brandon Saad and 20-year-old Teuvo Teravainen.

If it’s Tampa Bay, it’ll be, well, take your pick. Captain Steven Stamkos is only 25, and he already considers himself an “old fart”.

A holdover from the ‘dark days,’ does Sharp have a future in Chicago?

Patrick Sharp

TAMPA — The Blackhawks faced plenty of “dynasty” questions on Tuesday, roughly 24 hours prior to making their third Stanley Cup Final appearance in six seasons.

But for Patrick Sharp, the term isn’t in his lexicon.

“I don’t really use that word,” Sharp said during Stanley Cup Media Day. “I just know I’ve been on a good team for a long time. Going back 10 years, Duncs [Duncan Keith], Seabs [Brent Seabrook] and I got started in Chicago, and we’re kind of the last remaining ones from those dark days.”

Sharp, 33, has spent a decade in the Windy City, which predates the arrivals of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Chelsea Dagger and Cup Parades. He’s been around long enough to remember the ‘Hawks not making the playoffs — like when they won just 26 games in 2005-06 under since-forgotten coach Trent Yawney — and when the United Center was more mausoleum than madhouse.

Because of that history, Sharp is more equipped to speak about the Blackhawks’ renaissance than just about anyone. But it’s also sort of telling he’s being asked dynasties and memories now, as both he and his team face an offseason loaded with uncertainty.

Minutes prior to Sharp taking the podium on Tuesday, ‘Hawks GM Stan Bowman was at a different dais, fielding far different questions — ones about the salary cap, and the uncertain future facing his team.

“It’s a challenge,” Bowman explained. “The salary cap, that’s a system we all play under and we’ve been through it before. There’s changes to be made to every team and we’re no different.

“We certainly have expectations that we want to keep this going. The main players are going to be back..”

Which begs the question — is Sharp a main player?

Next year, Toews and Kane will have cap hits of $10 million each. Brandon Saad needs a new deal this summer, and Brent Seabrook the year following. Those financial obligations have led many to speculate that Sharp, who has two years left on his deal at $5.9M per, will be traded this summer as a cap-relief move — not unlike, as Bowman alluded to, the ‘Hawks previously being forced to deal away the likes of Andrew Ladd, Kris Versteeg and Dustin Byfuglien due to salary restraints.

More: On Patrick Sharp’s future in Chicago

Sharp knows this part of the game. He was on hand for the Ladd-Versteeg-Byfuglien purge five years ago and, when his name surfaced at last year’s trade deadline, he acknowledged “there’s going to be talk, discussions, rumors” about his future in Chicago. (Prior to this year’s deadline, he was linked in a move to Washington.)

As such, it was not surprising on Tuesday to hear Sharp speak about his entire career with the ‘Hawks — not just the recent championships, that have led to dynasty discussions.

“It became just such a fun ride to be a part of,” he explained. “I don’t look at the past six years and say we’ve been to three Cup Finals — I look at the whole ride in general, and consider myself very lucky to be a part of it.”