VANCOUVER -- Mike Babcock saw firsthand during these Olympics the gigantic problem he's going to have as long as he's coaching the Detroit Red Wings.
Jonathan Toews really is that good.
"I wish it was going to go away," Babcock said following Canada's thrilling 3-2 overtime win over Team USA in Sunday's gold medal game.
Team Canada Executive Director Steve Yzerman admitted that when he was hired by Hockey Canada to pick this team 18 months ago, he figured Toews could maybe make it as the 13th forward.
Instead, Toews finished the Olympics as the No. 1 forward as voted by the media.
He scored Canada's first goal in the gold-medal game and had previously dished out seven assists to tie for the tournament lead with Slovakia's Pavol Demitra. Toews also tied USA defenseman Ryan Suter with a tournament-best plus-9 rating.
"We felt he would be a good player because he's intelligent, he's competitive and he's really skilled," Yzerman said. "He probably exceeded our expectations. I'd like to stand here and say we knew he was going to be that dominant or that good. But we thought he'd be good."
Hockey gurus already knew of Toews' talent and his drive, but now the rest of the sporting world does, too. All they had to do was watch any game in this tournament, and specifically any of his shifts during the final three games.
"He was, from start to finish, one of our best forwards and there is no way else to describe it," said Canadian defenseman Duncan Keith, Toews' teammate in Chicago. "He was good offensively and good defensively and used in all of the situations. He works so hard that he deserves everything he gets."
After starting the tournament with a smaller role on Canada's fourth line, Toews started centering a shutdown line with Rick Nash and Mike Richards as his wings late in Canada's 8-2 win over Germany this past Tuesday.
Toews' line was asked to stuff Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Semin in the game against Russia the following night. Not only did they shut out the Russian superstars, Canada scored twice against them with goals by Nash and Shea Weber.
Toews, Richards and Nash stayed together for the rest of the tournament and didn't get scored on until Zach Parise's goal with 24.4 seconds left in regulation on Sunday. However, the Americans had pulled goalie Ryan Miller to set up a 6-on-5 advantage. Richards was also replaced by Ryan Getzlaf for that shift.
"What happened was the Americans gave us an opportunity to play another game against the Germans and were able to sort out a lot of stuff during the game," Babcock said, referencing Team USA's 5-3 win last Sunday that forced Canada to play an extra elimination game in the qualification round. "From that point they were very good. They were a dominant line for us and could play against anybody but also create offense."
Toews, who has earned the nickname 'Captain Serious' in Chicago for his straightforward, no-nonsense demeanor, was near tears when he came off the ice after receiving his gold medal.
"It's unbelievable," he told NHL.com. "It's really hard to grasp how big it really is. You are in this one building and you can't even understand how many people watched this and how it affects people. I remember in '02 when I was a kid, I was 12 or 13 years old, and those memories stray with me until now. I told Jarome (Iginla) on the ice right after, 'It's just like you, Joe and Stevie in '02,' and he started laughing. It's a dream come true."
When NHL.com informed Toews that the media had voted him as the tournament's best forward, he didn't even blink.
"That's cool and all," he said, "but it just means so little compared to winning a gold medal as a team. That was our No. 1 goal, that is what every guy fought so hard for. It feels so good right now."
It should. Toews earned it.
"I was just doing what I do in Chicago," he said.
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