Considering how Jonathan Toews
has played and the results he's gotten in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, there is some irony in the Chicago Blackhawks captain being awarded the Selke Trophy on Friday night.
By receiving enough votes to win the Selke, Toews is being honored for his defensive game and using his skills to win faceoffs, to play on the penalty kill, to be a plus-player, and to turn strong defense into a puck-possession game that leads to dangerous offensive chances. Few, if any, do all of those things better than Toews in the NHL, so it makes sense for him to be a natural fit for the award.
The two things the voters for the Selke don't (or at least shouldn't) take into account is how many goals a player scores or how many he helps to create; these, of course, are also two aspects of the game that Toews was so good at in the regular season, yet has found problematic in the playoffs.
He has one goal in 18 games going into Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS), yet nobody around the Blackhawks would change anything about the way Toews is playing.
"If you took away the stats you wouldn't even notice any changes in his normal game," Patrick Sharp told NHL.com. "He's still taking his draws. He's still playing well away from the puck. He's still battling down low. He's still getting scoring chances, plenty of chances at the net. It's just maybe that it's playoff time and it's tough to score."
It's been darn near impossible for Toews, who hasn't lit the lamp since Game 5 against the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Semifinals. He is zero for his last 23 shots on goal.
Toews averaged one goal for every 6.2 shots on goal in the regular season. It's hard to explain the drought.
"There's a lot of moments where you're getting close to scoring and you've gotta stay with it," Toews said. "You go through almost three periods of overtime [in Game 1, a 4-3 Blackhawks win] and you feel like you can be the guy who contributes and finds a way to score. You don't care much when one of your teammates scores because the game is over, but you obviously want to be one of those players that makes those big plays at this time of year."
His teammates and coaches say Toews is doing those things, even though he's not scoring. He's still winning 53 percent of his faceoffs. He's still playing nearly two minutes per game on Chicago's top-ranked penalty kill. He's still a plus-4. He has eight assists to go with his one goal.
"One thing you know, he's the ultimate player as far as in all zones," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "He plays well without the puck, brings speed to your game, puck possession, awareness to how you want to play technically. Special teams, he's out there in all those minutes. Just plays a hard game.
"Offensively, his numbers may be down, but the one thing you get from Johnny is without the puck, they've got to be concerned with him. Usually he gets a top defensive pairing. There's attention that's got to be paid to him."
Toews admitted he was thrown off his game early in the series against Detroit, when Henrik Zetterberg was shutting him down and forcing him to lose his typical emotional cool.
"Certainly when we were down 3-1 against Detroit, that was probably the most pressure I've felt and we felt as a team to find a way to score goals," Toews said. "Whenever you're down in a series and things aren't looking so good that's when you're going to feel it the most."
Chicago came back to win three straight against the Red Wings, then beat the Los Angeles Kings in five games and take a 1-0 lead agaianst the Boston Bruins into Game 2. The Blackhawks have won eight of nine since losing Game 4 against Detroit, six in a row at home and three in overtime, all without getting offense from their second-best offensive player during the regular season.
"It shows you the depth of our team, the contributions we get from everybody at this time of year," Sharp said, "but obviously if Johnny starts putting it in it'll be better for all of us."
He just can't try to do it at the expense of everything else he does. That's not how you become a Selke Trophy winner or a Stanley Cup champion.
"For a lot of guys it could be discouraging when it doesn't go your way, but for myself, I just try to stay with it and not dwell on it too much," Toews said. "Be positive going into every game and we'll keep going with that same attitude."