Jonathan Toews left Sochi, Russia, a very happy man.
It’s easy to understand, really. Team Canada won its second consecutive Olympic gold medal, with Toews scoring the gold-winning goal. The concern for Toews, as well as his fellow Olympians, was how would they respond when they returned? In Toews’ case, the response has been very good, indeed.
Toews has eight goals and two assists in 10 games since returning from the Winter Games, and now has 27 goals and 38 assists on the season. With 12 regular-season games remaining, Toews is nearing career highs in both numbers: he notched a career-best 34 goals in 2008-09 and 44 assists in 2010-11.
This isn’t about personal numbers as much as it is getting the Blackhawks back to consistent play. Still, when your best players are playing accordingly, that helps the cause. So what’s worked for Toews these past few weeks? He said the right mindset has been part of the success.
“I think now, I’m just trying to create more chances, thinking more like a goal scorer and going to those areas where I know pucks will be kind of just sitting there,” he said. “It was frustrating there for a while before the Olympics where it felt like I wasn’t getting the chances. Finally I would and sometimes you try to make the best of that one opportunity and it doesn’t go in.”
The mindset and pursuit is obviously working, and coach Joel Quenneville has seen the uptick in Toews’ post-Olympic games.
“He’s been good,” he said. “Consistency is probably his greatest attribute, when he plays game in and game out, has purpose behind every shift, meaning behind every shift and does everything the right way. You couldn’t ask for a better leader in going about the right way of playing. He’s been good since (the Olympics), but he’s generally good every night.”
Prior to the Winter Games, Quenneville said some players could come back from that experience on a high, bolstered by Olympic performances and ready to apply that energy to the rest of the regular season. Toews said the Sochi outings were motivating.
“For myself, especially, looking back you don’t feel as much pressure every game you go into. You just go out and play and let things happen,” he said. “That’s probably the biggest difference.”
Of course, what ultimately drives Toews is winning. At 25, he already has two Stanley Cups and two gold medals. But the copious amounts of hardware haven’t dulled his desire to gather more, and Toews is always prepared to do more to achieve that.
“I don’t think there’s ever a reason to be satisfied,” he said. “It’s exciting every time you win, disappointing every time you lose. Every chance you go to the playoffs or Olympic tournament, your mind is only on one thing. If you feel you’re on a team that has a chance to accomplish something special, you don’t want to be one of those guys who just lets it go by and doesn’t bring it all. For myself, I’m just focusing on my own game and trying to make the biggest difference. I’ve been lucky to be a part of some special moments in my career. Hopefully they keep coming.”