Hawk Talk: Winnipeg gives Toews a hero's welcome

209941.jpg

Hawk Talk: Winnipeg gives Toews a hero's welcome

Sunday, July 11, 2010
7:51 PM

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- The worst thing about the day was we weren't on the bus with Jonathan Toews during his parade route. The fact there was no bus made it more acceptable.

A late change in plans put the captain in his own convertible, sitting on top of the back seat with the Stanley Cup on one side and the Conn Smythe Trophy on the other. And the man looked as happy and relaxed as I've ever seen him, so it was worth the personal sacrifice and disappointment. We would've loved to talk to him as his fellow natives showered love upon him during the route, but we'd probably talked to him enough anyway, and we'd get him again afterwards. Let JT enjoy!

And the humble 22-year-old was even more humbled when the city renamed the Dakota Community Center in his name. 17 years ago, his parents got him started in organized hockey in that very building - and there are photos there to prove it, if not at age 5, then shortly thereafter. Now the thousands of kids who cheered him on and chanted his name all day Sunday can walk into the same buillding with the same dreams, named after their hero. There was truly a look of shock and disbelief on his face when Mayor Sam Katz removed a sheet covering the placard with the logo of the renamed rink.

Monday, Toews has his own golf tournament for a children's cause and makes a children's hospital visit. He said he had 4-5 days of fishing last week on a lake where Mike Richards lives, and caught some grief from Flyers fans. But he says a little more R-and-R, then he starts gradually working back into hockey shape. It'll be an especially short summer vacation, and between being Cup champs and the roster changes, the 2010-11 season will be his toughest.

As I wrote earlier, people had some fun with Toews earlier in the day when it was revealed where Toews Lake would be. Even Jonathan admittd he'd never fished as far north as a 12-hour car ride from Winnipeg. And no one's sure how many - if any - roads lead to it. I guess a private plane or helicopter's in order for that Conn Smythe bonus. But Premier Greg Selinger - who made the call on his own with no apparent objections - thought the hometown boy, his accomplishments, and they way he goes about his life was well worth it. Lakes are usually named only for this province's casualties of war, or descendants of the Queen.

Speaking of which, my hustling cameraman Dave covered Queen Elizabeth II's visit here last weekend. He claims the turnout to see your Hawks captain was comparable to that of the 84-year-old British monarch.

Betcha this one was a bit more rowdy.

Will lopsided loss shake Blackhawks from their slumber?

Will lopsided loss shake Blackhawks from their slumber?

The Blackhawks have talked the past several games now about how they need to play better, how they need to get back to their 60-minute game. But even when you tell yourself you have to improve the message doesn't always translate into immediate action. That's especially true if, despite so-so play, you're still managing victories or still eking out a point.

Sometimes, you need a jolt to realize you have to get better. Well, that thud the Blackhawks made in South Florida ought to get their attention. 

The Blackhawks' 7-0 loss to the Florida Panthers on Saturday night, that "ugly, ugly game," as coach Joel Quenneville, is the latest in what's been a mediocre stretch for the team. They've been leaning on their goaltending again (please see Minnesota, Montreal, Ottawa and Dallas games). Or they've been leaning on their ability to wake up in the third period after sleepwalking through the first two. Sixty-minute games and four-line rotations, such a big part of the Blackhawks' success through February and early March, have been absent.

Call it the Blackhawks' mid-March malaise.

[VIVID SEATS: Buy Blackhawks tickets] 

It hasn't been more painful because the Blackhawks have still found ways to get points. Or at least they did until Saturday night, when two "yapping" penalties – Quenneville's (accurate) description of Ryan Hartman and Marcus Kruger's unsportsmanlike calls – started the Blackhawks' demise against the Panthers. Players told the traveling media following the game that this was a wake-up call. It ought to be.

Granted, the Blackhawks' late-season issues aren't as bad as some of their fellow Western Conference teams. The Minnesota Wild are 3-10-1 in March. The San Jose Sharks have lost six in a row. This also isn't the first time the Blackhawks have gone through this late-season mediocrity.

Entering the 2015 postseason they struggled to score goals and lost four in a row (five goals in those four games). It turned out alright. Still, best to avoid bad habits.

Perhaps the Blackhawks are in a bit of a swoon because, really, there's not much for which to play in these final few games. They don't care if they win the Presidents' Trophy (and they probably won't). They're currently in first place by seven points following the Wild's 3-2 overtime loss to Detroit on Sunday. Whether the Blackhawks finish first or second, they'll start this postseason at home. 

So is this panic-inducing? No. Is it a concern? Certainly. The Blackhawks can't start thinking they'll automatically flip the switch as soon as the postseason begins.

The Blackhawks want to get their four-line rotation going again. Artem Anisimov returning in the next week or two will certainly help that. They want to get their overall game going again. The Blackhawks have been telling themselves what needs to be done for a few games now. Maybe they needed a wake-up call. On Saturday, they got it. 

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks give up season-high seven goals

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks give up season-high seven goals

Here are some of Saturday's top stories in Chicago sports:

Five Things to Watch: Bulls visit Bucks in final regular season meeting on CSN

Jonathan Marchessault's hat trick leads Panthers rout of Blackhawks

Javier Baez won’t change his style around Cubs after World Baseball Classic: ‘We’re not showing anybody up’

White Sox: Carlos Rodon feels reassured after clean MRI

Marian Hossa named Blackhawks' nominee for 2017 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy

Brett Anderson’s personality mixing well with Cubs: ‘I don’t hate anybody yet’

Former Bulls center Joakim Noah suspended 20 games for violating NBA's anti-drug policy

Rule 5 pick Dylan Covey takes advantage of showcase as White Sox down Indians

Joe Maddon breaks down the Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella decision for Cubs

2017 NFL Draft Profile: Illinois OLB Dawuane Smoot