Jonathan Toews pushed the cleared puck down ice just far enough, stumbling and falling as he did so, as the final seconds of Game 6 ticked off the clock. And as soon as the clock hit zero, the Chicago Blackhawks captain slammed his stick to the ice, another Stanley Cup secured for he and his teammates.
For anyone who’s watched Toews over his career, those few seconds encapsulated it: no quit, no stopping, no excuses. That says it all about him as a player. And for those who watched him hand the Cup over to the veterans who hadn’t won it before immediately after, that says all about him as a captain.
“He willed us to win that game,” said Jamal Mayers, who Toews made sure was one of the first players to hoist the Cup. “He just took it to another level. A lot of guys did, but him in particular. I told him that. It was amazing.”
The Blackhawks are used to Toews doing amazing on a consistent basis. No, he didn’t have the goal total he would’ve liked in the playoffs. But in Game 6 when the Blackhawks needed an equalizer, he had it. When they needed another one, he helped set it up. And he was the last Blackhawks player to get a stick on that puck, pushing it out of harm’s way in the waning seconds of Game 6.
“He’s our backbone. He’s our captain for a reason, on and off the ice,” said Bryan Bickell, recipient of Toews’ final 2013 postseason assist. “He comes to play every night. This postseason he didn’t put up the goals he wanted but he was there physically, on faceoffs and on the penalty kill.”
Coach Joel Quenneville was asked if he considers himself fortunate to have a guy like Toews as a captain.
“Yes I do,” Quenneville said with a smile. “Very fortunate knowing your captain represents how you want your leader to play and be, and extends the same message that your staff has in place. You can’t ask for a better situation.”
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As far as handing that Cup off to the veterans winning it for the first time, Toews said it’s just something you get as you mature.
“It’s something you learn every game. Every year as a captain that you learn how the team works, and especially when you have veterans like Mayers, Handzus and guys like that who police the way you handle yourself in an NHL locker room,” he said. “Sometimes that won’t come from the young guys; you don’t understand it unless you play with older players. As I’ve gone along as a captain you understand more of what your job is. It all matters, it all adds up. You definitely learn a lot from being around guys like that.”
The Blackhawks figured Toews would be a great player when they drafted him. He’s also developing into that strong and great a captain. The Blackhawks’ core is going to be here for quite some time. Their “backbone” will be, too.
“Just the leadership was huge,” Bickell said. “He is our captain, and he’ll be here for a while.”