BOSTON -- The captain traditionally is the first person to hoist the Stanley Cup after his team wins the Final. After the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Boston Bruins 3-2 in Game 6 on Monday night to wrap up the 2013 Final, captain Jonathan Toews was summoned to center ice to receive the Cup for the second time in four playoff seasons.
It was a fitting reward for Toews following a 24-hour period in which he went from being questionable for the game to leading his team to a championship with a herculean effort in Game 6.
"[Toews] is always the same. He's the same player that's never backed down," said teammate David Bolland, who scored the Cup-winning goal with 58.3 seconds remaining in regulation. "Through injury or not, he battles to the end. He's the best captain in the League."
Toews had two assists in Chicago's 3-1 victory in Game 5, but he also sustained a barrage of big hits from Boston's defense, including a blow from Johnny Boychuk as Toews crossed into the middle of the ice. Toews was kept off the ice for the third period, and the big question for the Blackhawks the following day was whether their captain would be able to play in Game 6.
It didn't take long for his teammates to figure out Toews was good to go.
"I knew it maybe yesterday," Conn Smythe winner Patrick Kane said. "He's a great player. He's played big in a lot of big games. Just a competitor. That's really all you can say about Jonathan Toews. He's a competitor. He leads the team in the right way and we all follow."
Not only did Toews dress for Game 6, he made it clear early on that he wasn't there just to provide moral support. After a solid first period, he tied the game 1-1 at 4:24 of the second when he barreled down the right wing before snapping a wrist shot between the legs of Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask.
As coach Joel Quenneville shortened his bench in the third period, it was clear he planned to lean heavily on his captain down the stretch.
"He had a monster game. He looked ready to go at the end of the last game, and I thought he looked very good yesterday and was ready to go last night and today," Quenneville said. "The bigger the game, the bigger the setting, you know what you're going to get from Jonathan Toews. He just knows how to play hockey. Whether he's productive or not, he absorbs a lot of big minutes from their match-up guys and he never gets outscored. The one thing is he plays the way you want a hockey player to play."
Toews led Chicago forwards with 20:12 of ice time, but he saved his biggest play for the game's final moments. Late in a third period during which he was on the ice for neatly eight minutes, Toews led a comeback as the Blackhawks pressed to overcome a 2-1 deficit.
With goaltender Corey Crawford pulled for an extra forward, Toews made a heads-up play to redirect a Duncan Keith pass onto the stick of Bryan Bickell, who was alone in front and snapped the puck into the net to tie the game.
"Incredible. He's a warrior," said forward Michal Handzus, whom Toews found first when it came time to pass the Stanley Cup along to his teammates. "To come back after the last game. That pass on [Bickell's] goal and the goal that he scored. A great leader."
Bolland scored 17 seconds after Bickell to give Chicago the lead and earn Toews his second Stanley Cup in four seasons. It also marked arguably Toews' best game of the series -- in addition to scoring a goal and adding his assist, he led all players with 12 faceoff wins and a 60-percent success rate. He also blocked two shots.
In typical Toews fashion, the last thing Chicago's captain wanted to do after hoisting the Stanley Cup was talk about himself.
"I'm absolutely blessed to be surrounded with great guys, great coaching staff and an unbelievable organization," Toews said. "This group of guys makes you look good every day. It's a special group, special team and they deserve it more than anybody.
"It's awesome. We're going home. We've got the Cup."