Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews is what coaches like to call a “complete” ice hockey player.
Defensively responsible, hard working, a leader and a playmaker, Toews has been all these things but mostly he is a goalscorer.
On Wednesday he did what the Blackhawks expect him to do and scored a second-period goal against the Boston Bruins in a 6-5 overtime win that leveled the Stanley Cup Final at 2-2.
Toews’ was not the most important goal of the night, but it could have been the most significant if it signals the long-awaited end to a dismal post-season scoring slump that was growing more and more worrying with each goal-less game.
When Chicago won their last Stanley Cup in 2010, Toews finished with seven goals and 29 points in 22 games, and earned the Conn Smythe trophy as the postseason’s most valuable player.
These playoffs, Toews, who tied for the team lead in goals scored during the regular season with 23, had counted just one goal, against the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference semi-finals, before Wednesday’s Game 4.
“I think it makes a world of difference for you when you finally see one go in,” Toews told reporters. “You work hard, eventually you’re going to find a way.”
“Tonight was one of those games, we treated it as a Game 7. We weren’t going to be denied and I felt that same way, too,” he said.
“It’s time to put all those other games behind us, the games where we struggled to score, forget about it, just find a way to do what you do,” he said.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville defended his captain, pointing out at great length the many different ways that Toews had been contributing to the Chicago cause — logging heavy minutes, taking extra care of his defensive responsibilities, winning face-offs.
For his work without the puck, Toews last week was awarded the Frank Selke trophy that goes to the NHL forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.
However, with his team struggling to score against the Bruins, Quenneville needed his sniper to start finding the target again.
In an effort to jumpstart Toews, Quenneville reunited him with Chicago’s other top forward, Patrick Kane, and along with Bryan Bickell the line produced some magic.
Kane also scored his first goal of the Final on Wednesday and the trio were also on the ice for Brent Seabrook’s overtime winner, Kane and Bickell picking up assists, while Toews was parked on the goalmouth ready to scoop up any rebounds.
Few in the TD Garden were happier to see Toews find the back of the net than Quenneville.
“Johnny had the puck more today, I thought he was more friendly with it,” Quenneville said. “That line was dangerous, be it off the rush or in the zone. Obviously scoring has got to help him.”
“The excitement of that line, Kaner in possession, Bick around with the big body, they scored some different kind of goals,” he said. “But Johnny had a nice night.”