By Greg Wyshynski:
Jonathan Toews has no goals in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, through eight games. He had two last postseason, through seven games. He had one in seven games against Vancouver in 2011. In 2010, when the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, Toews had one goal in the final 11 games of their run to the championship. It was still good enough for the Conn Smythe.
We’re no math majors, but Toews has four goals in his last 33 playoff games.
During that span, defenseman Brent Seabrook has three goals. For context’s sake.
Reader ‘Hollis 22’ is wondering why Toews doesn’t take flack for this drought:
“If Alex Ovechkin was in that kind of drought, the hockey media would be in his face with torches and pitchforks. In contrast, Joe Thornton has 5 goals in his last 27 playoff tilts, yet he and Patrick Marleau are viewed as guys that crumble in the playoffs.
“Why this stat hasn’t made its way to the forefront of the Chicago-Detroit series is mind-boggling to me.”
The line of Toews, Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad has two points in three games against the Detroit Red Wings, who lead their series 2-1. That came on a Marian Hossa power-play goal in Game 1, on which Toews earned an assist.
Otherwise, they’ve watched Henrik Zetterberg’s line do to them what they did to Zach Parise’s line in the Minnesota Wild series: Shut them down, while generating their own offense on the counterattack.
Which is why criticism of Toews’s postseason offense can be sort of tricky.
You could argue that Toews’s primary responsibility in the playoffs isn’t to score goals, and that thesis could be supported by the evidence in Joel Quenneville’s line matching over the years. The Toews Line vs. The Sedins. The Toews Line vs. Joe Thornton (and in one memorable case, Toews vs. Thornton in a fist fight). The Toews Line vs. Briere and Hartnell. The Toews Line vs. Parise and Koivu.
In each case, neutralizing the opposition was as important to the Hawks’ chances as potting their own goals. It’s like when one network puts a popular program in the same time slot as a competitor’s ratings juggernaut: You’re not always trying to win the night; sometimes, you’re just looking to undermine their best offering.
So, in that sense, Toews is a supremely talented defensive centerman when the playoffs roll around: Taking on the other guy’s top talent, winning faceoffs, playing a complete game.
It’s a role he shares with fellow Canadian Olympian and Selke darling Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins, who has 7 goals in his last 33 playoff games.
But two of those goals came in the most important game of the Bruins’ season: Game 7 vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs, rallying Boston to an overtime win and sending them to Round 2, where they’re one win away from a sweep of the Rangers.
Chicago is waiting for Toews to have that moment. So is Toews. Via the Chicago Tribune:
”I always do,” he said. ”Maybe a little added pressure given the situation. Right now I’m just not letting it build up too much in my own mind. Sometimes you start squeezing the stick and the rest of your game goes down hill. I’m not letting that happen. But I know that sooner or later something’s got to give. Hopefully I’ll be able to find a way to contribute in a big way for my team.”
”You gotta keep working and try to keep the puck as much as you can,” Toews said. ”The more you have it the more opportunities you’re going to get to score. Eventually something’s gotta go in. Once they do, whether it’s myself or Sodder or Hoss, I think confidence will come rushing back that we can keep scoring on a regular basis. We’re confident that’s going to happen.”
Toews avoids the heat because he does everything else that doesn’t involve putting the puck in the net so well. But eventually he has to put the puck in the net, because the Blackhawks usually win when he does. He has 41 goals in their last 68 regular-season victories; he has just 11 in their last 38 losses.
To win this series, they need Toews to do what so many other couldn’t do vs. Toews: Break through against a tenacious defensive center, who is currently frustrating the hell out of the Blackhawks captain.
Perhaps it’s time for some double-shifting of No. 19, coach.
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