That the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final without getting points from center Jonathan Toews or right wing Patrick Kane is a testament to the West champions' depth.
Late goals by Teuvo Teravainen and Antoine Vermette triggered the rally that allowed the Blackhawks to win their first game this spring in which Toews and Kane were blanked.
"It's been that way all playoffs, to be honest with you. It seems like every game, someone new steps up, someone else is tearing it," Kane said Friday. "I think we all kind of want to play as hard as we can and take advantage when the opportunity is yours, but that's why this team has been so successful — we have that depth, we have players shifting in all the time, players scoring big goals. It's not like we're just counting on one or two guys."
The Blackhawks have consistently counted on Kane, who made a swift recovery from surgery on his clavicle in late February and leads them in playoff scoring. He ranks second in goals in the league with 10 and second in points with 20; Toews is seventh in scoring with nine goals and 18 points.
Coach Joel Quenneville sometimes separates them to get better scoring balance, as he did until the last two games of the Western Conference final against the Ducks. And although he said he might separate them Saturday in Game 2 at Amalie Arena, he had them practice together Friday with Brandon Saad on their left.
"It seems like he knows what he's doing behind the bench," Kane said. "It seems like when he breaks us up or puts us together, it seems to be the right call and the right time."
The Lightning silenced them Wednesday by deploying center Cedric Paquette and defensemen Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman against them. But what worked once against Toews, the most valuable player in Chicago's 2010 Stanley Cup run, and Kane, the MVP in their 2013 triumph, might not work twice. That forces the Lightning to remain aware of the threat they pose separately and together.
"Playing against those two guys is a big challenge," Hedman said. "They had some zone time, but I think we did a good job of having good gaps and keeping them to the outside. If you start puck-watching, you're going to be in the stands when Kane has the puck. I think we did a good job most of the night to be in shooting lanes and try to keep them to the outside.…
"They have a deep lineup. For us, it's about approaching the game the same way either way. I don't know if it's going to change some matchup. We're ready for whatever challenge they throw at us."
Tampa Bay didn't appear to be planning any lineup changes, consistent with its belief that its game plan was fine until players became too conservative while protecting a 1-0 lead in the third period. The Lightning has lost three of its four playoff openers, so trailing in a series is nothing new.
"Obviously, it's not ideal," defenseman Matt Carle said.
But teammate Alex Killorn said it can be overcome. "It's having a short memory, coming back harder," Killorn said. "We've been a resilient group, and you have to have a short memory in these playoffs."
The Blackhawks are likely to have the same lineup in Game 2 after Quenneville said he was inclined not to bring in defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, who hasn't played an NHL game since November because of injuries. Left wing Bryan Bickell is questionable because of an undisclosed injury that he said is not a concussion; Kris Versteeg replaced him in Game 1.
The best change for the Blackhawks would be to get scoring from Kane, who had 27 goals and 64 points in 61 regular-season games before his injury and surgery. He has had to improve his defensive play over the years to survive in the increasingly defense-oriented NHL, but he still has the ability to be a game-breaker, and now can create offense out of sound defense.
"I think it's good for the league that the final two teams have that offensive punch and have the star power," Kane said. "It's not like it's two strictly defensive teams that try to win the game 1-0 or 2-1. We can win that way. We can also win by scoring a lot of goals too.
"With a team like this, I think we try to stress defense first. When we get those turnovers and go the other way, it seems like Coach Q gives us the freedom to make plays as long as they're smart plays and not putting us in a difficult position. To have that freedom, you can't really ask for much more."
All they can ask of him is to score goals. He usually delivers.