Jonathan Toews was really good, plus 10 Blackhawks observations
BY MARK POTASH Twitter: @MarkPotash June 25, 2013 2:39PM
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Updated: June 25, 2013 9:59PM
Every intangible edge that made the Blackhawks champions in 2010 came into play in 2013. But the two most prominent ones ultimately put them over the top — their ability to respond to the urgency of the moment. And the uncanniness of Jonathan Toews.
Down 2-1 in the final 90 seconds of Game 6 against the Bruins on Monday night and seemingly destined for Game 7 at the United Center, Toews’ legendary — and very real — will-to-win made the difference. His perfectly threaded pass between Zdeno Chara’s legs to Bryan Bickell to set up the tying goal with 1:16 left and momentum did the rest. Dave Bolland’s goal 18 seconds later, with 58 seconds left in regulation, gave the Hawks a 3-2 victory that clinched their second Cup in four seasons.
It was a fitting conclusion to an eventful postseason for Toews, who was not the factor in this playoff run as he was in 2013 — at least not on paper — when he scored 29 points in 22 games and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the postseason.
Toews also scored the Hawks’ first goal in Game 6 on Monday night on a wrist shot that made it clear he should have been taking more of them in the playoffs. But he does his own thing and it’s hard to blame him — everything he touches eventually turns to gold.
Toews scored 23 goals in 47 regular-season games but only three in 23 playoff games. But unlike in 2010, when he scored 25 points in a 13-game playoff stretch but was quiet in the Final, he finished strong. Toews scored two goals and added three assists and was a plus-5 in the final three games — all of them victories.
The modest point totals obscured Toews’ overall excellence. He finished the 2013 playoffs with a plus-nine rating. When he won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2010, he was a minus-1 for the playoffs and a minus-4 in the final three games of the Final.
The Hawks’ captain can’t live on plus-minus alone, but the offensive production in the final three games sheds a new light on his defensive performance earlier in the postseason.
It’s no coincidence that Toews outproduced every key player he went up against in the 2013 playoffs. The Wild’s Mikko Koivu was pointless and a minus-6 against the Blackhawks. Linemate Zach Parise scored one goal and was a minus-7; The Red Wings’ Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg were even against the Blackhawks; The Kings’ Anze Kopitar had one goal and was a minus-3 against the Blackhawks; linemate Dustin Brown — a plus-5 in the first two rounds of the playoffs, was a minus-3 against Toews and the Blackhawks.
But wait, there’s more: The Bruins’ David Krejci came into the Stanley Cup Final with nine goals and 12 assists for 21 points and a plus-14 rating. He scored no goals and had five asists with a minus-1 rating against Toews and the Hawks. Nathan Horton came in with a playoff-best plus-22 rating, but had no goals, two points and was a minus-1 against the Hawks. Milan Lucic scored four goals and had six points, but also was a minus-1. All three members of the hottest line in the playoffs (19 goals, 51 points in 16 games through the first three rounds) were a minus-3 in the final two games of the Final.
‘‘I said coming into this series that I was setting my personal agenda aside, and I wasn’t going to let a lack of success bother me and take me away from staying with my work ethich and trying to contribute any way I can for this team,’’ Toews said during the on-ice celebration Monday night at TD Garden. ‘‘You gotta stay positive and the goals are going to come at the right time. I’d like to think that they did.’’
The Bruins understandably were in no mood to lionize Toews or the Blackhawks, feeling they lost the series as much if not more than Toews and the Hawks won it.
‘‘It was just one thing after another. Before you knew it, it was in the net,’’ Krejci said. ‘‘And right after that [tying goal], same thing. The second goal hurt so bad, and we just couldn’t recover. Then the third one happened. It all of a sudden felt like you had so much weight on your back. You couldn’t move, you couldn’t think and just couldn’t get it done.’’
That’s the kind of pressure Jonathan Toews probably felt through much of the postseason as he went scoreless through the first nine games and then was stuck on one goal through three games of the Final. But he could still move. He could still think. And he could still get it done. That’s the difference Toews makes any time he’s on the ice.
10 MORE OBSERVATIONS:
1. The Blackhawks had their share of unsung heroes, as all championship teams do. Veteran defenseman Michal Rozsival probably tops the list. He was averaging less than 15:00 a game when he played 25:28 in Game 4 against the Kings when Duncan Keith was suspended. And he took on extra duty when Nick Leddy was all but benched in Games 4 and 6 against the Bruins.
And he also helped out offensively by putting the puck on net against the Kings and Bruins, leading to some key goals. None was bigger than the double-deflection — off Dave Bolland and then Andrew Shaw — in the 4-3 triple-overtime thriller in Game 1.
2. Another veteran, forward Michal Handzus, earned the honor of being the second player to hoist the Cup (Jonathan Toews gave it to Marian Hossa — also a deserved recipient — in 2010).
Handzus, acquired on April 1 in a trade with the San Jose Sharks for a fourth-round draft choice, scored as many goals against the Hawks as he did for them in the regular season (one). But he was a key veteran presence in the locker room and arguably scored the most important goal of the postseason — the tying goal in the third period in Game 6 against the Red Wings when the Hawks were less than 20 minutes from elimination.
3. Handzus’ goal against the Blackhawks in a Feb. 5 regular-season game in San Jose figured in a crisis moment for Corey Crawford. Handzus’ goal was the third allowed by Crawford against the Sharks in the first 11 minutes of the game. Joel Quenneville could have pulled Crawford, but stuck with him. Andrew Shaw scored eight seconds after Handzus’ goal and Crawford did not allow another goal as the Hawks rallied for a 5-3 victory to improve to 8-0-2.
Quenneville’s confidence in Crawford and Crawford’s response to a difficult circumstance early in the season were considered key factors in Crawford’s development into the Cup-winning goaltender he became.
4. In winning the NHL’s ‘‘Tournament of Champions,’’ the Blackhawks became the first team in NHL history to defeat three recent Cup-winning teams en route to the Stanley Cup.
The Hawks rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Red Wings — who had their top four postseason scorers from their 2008 championshpi team. They also beat the Los Angeles Kings (the 2012 Cup winners) in the Western Conference final and the Bruins (2011) in the Final.
The only other teams to beat even two former championship teams en route to the Cup were the 2009 Penguins (2008 Red Wings, 2006 Panthers) and the 1967 Maple Leafs (1965-66 Canadiens, 1963 Blackhawks).
5. On the other hand, the Blackhawks might have gotten a break in the first round when the Columbus Blue Jackets and Vezina Trophy-winning goalie Sergei Bobrovsky lost a tie-breaker for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
Instead of facing the red-hot Bobrovsky — who had won eight of his last nine games and stymied the Hawks in a 2-1 shootout loss to them in March — the Hawks faced the Minnesota Wild, who lost goaltender Niklas Backstrom to an injury during Game 1 warmups.
The Hawks, far from sharp in the first round, faced backups Josh Harding and Darcy Kuemper and won the series 4-1.
6. The most telling statistic of the 2013 Stanley Cup championship run was the Hawks’ 10-1 record in Games 4-7 during the postseason — including 5-1 on the road. The Hawks almost always started slowly — they were 15-15 in Games 1-3 — but gained momentum in the latter stages of each series against the Wild (2-0), Red Wings (3-1), Kings (2-0) and Bruins (3-0).
Many times the Hawks barely survived in those games — their 3-2 Cup-clinching victory in Game 6 being a perfect example. But after so many instances, that can’t be a coincidence. The Hawks’ 22-6 record in Games 4-7 over the past four seasons is far and way the best in the NHL. The other four recent champions — the Kings (10-13), Bruins (16-18), Penguins (10-10) and Red Wings (12-9) are a combined 48-50 in Games 4-7.
7. According to published rules regarding names that are engraved on the Stanley Cup, backup goaltender Ray Emery, who was 17-1 as a starter in the 2012-13 regular season, technically isn’t automatically eligible to have his name on the Cup. The rules state that a player must play in 41 games of an 82-game regular season (which presumably would be 24 games of a 48-game season) or play in at least one game of the Final to have his name on the Cup.
The rules allow Cup-winning teams leeway for players with special circumstances, for which Emery certainly and likely will qualify. Ben Smith, who played in one regular season game and one Final game (subbing for an injured Marian Hossa), is eligible to have his name on the Cup.
Daniel Carcillo played in 23 regular-season games and did not play in the Final, which would leave him one game short of getting his name on the Cup. Jamal Mayers, whose leadership was valued by his teammates and the coaching staff — and fought Raffi Torres early in the season — also figures to be in line for the special dispensation.
8. Patrick Kane was a surprise winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy — a surprise to most of the Chicago-based reporters who voted for Corey Crawford, anyway.
Apparently, national hockey media — many of whom saw the Blackhawks mostly in the Final or the last two rounds, when Kane was great and Crawford was good but not great — pushed Kane over the top.
But the award is clearly for overall excellence in the postseason. While Kane was responsible for pushing the Hawks over the top with the hat trick against the Kings in the Game 5 clincher and three goals in the Final, Crawford was most responsible for getting them there.
Kane acknowledged as much when asked about the award after the game.
‘‘I’m blessed. I play with great players. I wouldn’t have been capable without my teammates,’’ Kane said. ‘‘There’s other guys that could have won it. You look at [Corey] Crawford. He probably got snubbed a little bit. Maybe Bicks [Bryan Bickell] and Sharpie [Patrick Sharp]. But it’s a great feeling.’’
9. From the Kings’ 14-game home winning streak to the dominance of Jonathan Quick and Tuukka Rask, the Blackhawks repelled a lot of ominous trends in winning the Cup. The Bruins had allowed just two goals in a four-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins heading into the Final. But the Hawks scored four goals against Rask in Game 1 and six in Game 4.
Rask came in with a 1.88 goals-against average in the playoffs. He allowed 16 goals in six games in the Final against the Hawks, a 2.67 goals-against average.
10. Nice touch by Jonathan Toews to salute Blackhawks fans for their support, especially after the 113-day lockout nearly cancelled the season.
‘‘Keep the bars open, we’re coming home,’’ Toews said when asked what his message was to Hawks fans. ‘‘We’re going to fill up the Cup tonight and we’re going to share it with the city of Chicago.
‘‘We’ve had unbelievable support from our fans. It’s special to win for your teammates, but there’s nothing better than to win it in Chicago and bring it home to hte best fans and the best city in the world. It’s going to be a heckuva party. We’re looking forward to it.’’