|Chicago center Jonathan Toews has eight goals and eight assists on the
season, and trails only his Blackhawks' teammate Patrick Kane in rookie scoring.
You know the one. You probably saw it on YouTube, too, like the thousands – or is it millions now? – of puckheads around the world.
The Chicago Blackhawks rookie slices and dices through three Colorado players, including two defensemen and a backchecker, leaving each flat-footed. He fakes out Avalanche goalie Jose Theodore and slides the puck inside the left post with his forehand.
Yikes. Can we see it again, please?
That shouldn’t be a problem. They’ll undoubtedly be showing Toews’ highlight in Chicago and on NHL videos for years, but to understand the value of what that it means to the Blackhawks, you’ll need to have the sound turned up. Peter McNab, a broadcaster for Colorado Avalanche games on the Altitude TV network, may turn out to be dead on in his assessment of the play.
“This is the kind of talent that can bring a franchise back from the dead,” McNab shouts only moments after Toews finished his theatrics.
Welcome to the world of Jonathan Toews, who, along with teammate and fellow Calder Memorial Trophy candidate Patrick Kane, is charged with bringing a once hockey-mad city back to the rink, and a once proud franchise back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Goals worth of a Broadway stage are just a small part of the solution.
“We know there are hockey fans in Chicago just waiting for that to happen, and it’s a matter of time,” Toews told NHL.com. “If it doesn’t happen in two weeks, it’s not a big deal. It’s going to happen.”
Hey Jonathan, it’s happening already for you.
Toews’ NHL career is only 20 games old, but his eight goals and eight assists, not to mention his play behind the blue line and his near 19 minutes of ice time per game, is enough of a sampling to see exactly what the Blackhawks have in their 6-foot-2, 205-pound top-line pivot from Winnipeg.
The scouting reports on Toews before he was selected with the third pick in the 2006 Entry Draft lauded his many attributes, including his two-way talent.
“He’s relentless at both ends of the ice,” Chicago General Manager Dale Tallon said. “He’s schooled defensively, and that sometimes overshadows his offense, which he has plenty of.”
The scouts also believed Toews was instinctive and strong on his skates.
Check and check.
“I have to gear myself up to work hard and battle where it’s almost instinct for him that he’s going to battle every shift,” Kane said. “When you put the work ethic with the talent he has, he’s fun to play with.”
Finally, the glowing reports also raved of Toews’ veteran-like approach.
“With Jonathan it’s not what have I done lately, it’s what can I do for you tomorrow,” said Chicago coach Denis Savard, who has compared Toews to Hockey Hall of Famer Bryan Trottier, and even said he was the Blackhawks’ future captain.
“Not bad for a kid, eh?” Savard added.
Not bad at all.
It didn’t take long for the League to notice how accurate the scouts were, either.
Which is why Toews, who centers a line with Kane and Tuomo Ruutu, already is facing the opposition’s best checking unit on a nightly basis. The strategy, which is obvious when you consider the trio has combined for 18 goals and 30 assists, both is a compliment and a challenge Toews didn’t expect so early in his NHL career.
“Other teams know how much we’ve been producing lately,” Toews said. “They’re going to do what they have to do to win, and if that means keying on the players they think are the most dangerous, that means a lot to us.”
Toews didn’t feel quite NHL ready after the 2006 draft, so he returned to the University of North Dakota for another year of seasoning. He wound up with 18 goals and 28 assists in 34 games before signing his entry-level contract.
While he likely would have cracked the Blackhawks’ lineup at some point last season anyway – Chicago, remember, finished with 71 points, ranking 26th out of 30 teams in that department – Toews felt it was necessary to for his development.
How could anyone doubt this kid?
“This is exactly how I pictured it,” he said. “Who knows if I would have been able to crack the lineup in Chicago at the start of last year? But it worked out this way, and getting the ice time I am right off the bat is perfect.”
Even if he doesn’t want to discuss it anymore, so was the goal.
“Unfortunately for me it probably was a once-in-a-lifetime goal,” Toews said.
Can we see it again?