If the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs has taught us anything so far, it’s that the game’s stars have come out to play. That includes the names we’ve already grown accustomed to showing up in the postseason over the last number of years, and the young guns who have emerged more recently.
In one series we had the St. Louis Blues’ Valdimir Tarasenko continue to skate around opponents like pylons even as the stakes grew higher against the Minnesota Wild. Sure his team got bounced in the series, but a one-handed Peter Forsberg-style move in a big game is something nobody can do better than Tarasenko these days.
In another series we saw Washington’s Alex Ovechkin outduel the New York Islanders’ John Tavares in a 7-game bout where both stars brought their best every night. While neither player finished in the top 10 in league scoring after Round 1, both played leading roles in making the Capitals/Islanders series the best of the opening round hands down.
And yet, while Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson is on fire and could easily be the league’s leading scorer once Game 7 against the Detroit Red Wings is in the books later tonight, it’s the Chicago Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews who currently and quietly holds that title. Toews managed 3 goals and 5 assists for 8 points in the team’s 4-2 series win over the Nashville Predators.
Doing things quietly is exactly how the Hawks’ captain prefers things. He did after all only score 28 times during the regular season, finishing with 66 points, two marks that are respectable but don’t garner Toews the individual regular season accolades that are often associated with the game’s elite.
The playoffs however tell a completely different story. Consider that Toews is presently only 26 years old, yet he’s a two-time Stanley Cup Champion, captaining his team to the Promised Land in 2010 and 2013. He received the Conn Smythe Trophy following the 2010 victory as the most valuable player of the Stanley Cup Finals, becoming the youngest captain in NHL history to claim the award at the ripe old age of 22.
What makes Toews so good is that he’s a true leader, leading by example and not by drawing attention to himself. He’s also a complete two-way player on the ice and does whatever is asked of him. The scary thing about all of his success is that he’s only 26. People forget that given how serious his demeanor is, and what a rich track record of success he’s already experienced in the game.
Whether he’s the leading scorer in the league following tonight’s final game of Round 1 or not one thing is for sure, Jonathan Toews deserves more hype and credit for what he does for the Blackhawks than individual scoring numbers could ever get for him. That’s evident in the decorated career he’s already put together for himself just by being the ultimate team leaders.
He’s a rare breed and someone that even more skilled players like Tavares, Ovechkin, Tarasenko and Stamkos can never really match. Toews proves that being Captain Serious can give a player plenty to smile and jump on plexi-glass about, even if he is the type of guy that prefers to put his head down, fist pump his teammates while gliding past the bench, and get right back to centre ice for the next puck drop when he is doing the scoring himself.