BY TIM WHARNSBY
Tue Jun 2, 2015 5:50pm EDT
If the Tampa Bay Lightning have triplets, the nickname coach Jon Cooper gave his second line because they have played in sync, then the Chicago Blackhawks have twins in Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
The dynamic duo were born 205 days apart in 1988, but they play in concert like they’ve spent their entire lives together, not just the past eight National Hockey League seasons.
Even with their shifts on the same line limited these days, when Toews and Kane were reunited for last week’s Game Six of the Western Conference final against Anaheim they immediately connected.
Kane had a goal and five points in the final two games, including the game-winner in Game Six. Toews scored twice in the series finale that sent Chicago to their third Stanley Cup Final in six years.
The Lightning and Blackhawks are set to open the NHL’s best-of-seven championship series in Tampa Bay on Wednesday.
“There are no two guys I’d rather have on my team coming into a big game,” said Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith.
“They have that ability to rise to the occasion and just find a way no matter what, whether it’s just that belief, but always just knowing, you know, they’re going to get it done, they’re going to find a way.”
But despite being in harmony on the ice the two have different personalities. Kane likes to have fun and long ago nicknamed his more unyielding teammate ‘Captain Serious.’
Toews, drafted third overall by Chicago in 2007, is a Canadian who played college hockey for North Dakota. Kane, who was selected first overall by Chicago a year later, is an American who played junior hockey in Canada.
They both made their Chicago debut during the 2007-08 season. Kane was named the rookie of the year and Toews won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the playoffs in their third season, when they won the Stanley Cup.
The two have been key components in the Blackhawks rise. They already have 10 postseason game-winning goals apiece, even though Toews is only 27 and Kane won’t celebrate his 27th until Nov. 19.
They already have played in 111 and 110 Stanley Cup playoff games, respectively.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville likes the luxury of splitting up the two and reuniting them. It is difficult for the opposition to pay attention to both of them when they are on different lines. But when they reunite, like they did last week on a line with Brandon Saad, they flourish.
“A great strength of our team is the depth and the balance,” said Quenneville, who added that the pair gets excited when they play together.
Judging by his play in the West finale, Toews, who matched a postseason career high with nine goals this year, certainly was excited.
“My job was easy,” he said. “I had to win draws, play smart defensively, watch those two go, create space for those two guys.
“It was a nice spark for us and a nice spark for the team.”
(Reporting by Tim Wharnsby; Editing by Frank Pingue)