In normal circumstances, it might be unfair to put the 21-year-old Toews and 20-year-old Kane under the microscope. But Toews and Kane are not your typical young stars. Until they had to face Chris Pronger and the Philadelphia Flyers in the Cup Final, they managed just fine in leading the Blackhawks to the Western Conference title.
Prior to this series, Toews was the leader at the pole for the Conn Smythe Award as most valuable player in the 2010 postseason. He had 26 points in 15 games. His 12-game point streak broke the franchise record set by Stan Mikita four decades ago. In the first four games of the Final, Toews only has one assist. In the Blackhawks' 5-3 loss on Friday night, he was minus-2 with three shots on goal in 20:58 of icetime.
Toews was asked after the Game 4 loss if his team could succeed without his line scoring.
"Well, obviously not," the usually calm captain said in a rare moment when his annoyance was visible. "The first two games were great. We got contributions from all over our lineup. But it's tough to have that go on every night. You need to get your power play going, your top couple of lines going. What are you going to do? You're not going to sit there and cry about it. You have to go out there and do something. The second you do something, people get off your back pretty good."
To the credit of the well-decorated Toews -- Olympic goal medal, World Junion Championships gold medal -- he knows the criticism comes with the territory.
"You do a lot of good things out there, but it means nothing if you don't produce," he said. "We knew this was going to be a long series. It's tough. Not everything is going to go your way. If it did, we'd have it sewn up by now."
In the locker room of the winning team, Flyers captain Mike Richards -- who scored his first goal of the series tonight after playing average hockey in the first three games -- understood the feeling and even stood up for his teammate on the Canadian Olympic squad.
"He does so many things besides score goals," said Richards. He's so good defensively. His hands are great on faceoffs. Even if he's not scoring, he does so much to help that team."
Richards is right. Toews has not let his offensive slump affect his concentration in the faceoff circle. On Friday, he was a dominant 24-for-33 in draws.
Kane has a higher ceiling in the offensive zone, but his game is not as well-rounded as his captain's. So when the first overall pick in the 2007 draft posts a minus-4 to go with one assist in over 20 minutes of icetime, Kane is not helping the cause. After being held scoreless in the first two games of the series, Kane had a goal and two assists in Chicago's two losses in Philadelphia. He is a combined minus-6 for the Final. Making the challenge fiercer for Toews and Kane is the struggle of Dustin Byfuglien, who has been nearly invisible in the Final -- quite an act for someone who is 6-4 and 257 pounds.
The Blackhawks can only hope having their home crowd behind them in Game 5 on Sunday night, and having the last line change, can revitalize Toews and Kane. The Blackhawks will not win their first Stanley Cup in 49 years without them.