The NHL declared Toews its top defensive forward of the season on Friday during an awards show at the United Center, where the Hawks will host Game 2 on Saturday.
With that, the Selke becomes the first new additive to his individual trophy case since he corralled the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP in 2010. For the Chicago franchise, it joins the Presidents' Trophy and Campbell Bowl in terms of awards going to the Blackhawks this season.
This comes at an unconventional time, seeing as this season’s lockout and resultant delay of the playoffs impelled the league to dole out these trophies while two teams are still competing for the Cup.
Ordinarily, this would wait until the week after the final was finished.
Come what may, there may be no individual in the Blackhawks organization better equipped to handle this honor in such a way that it does not trip him up, or better yet boosts him to another level, as he returns to one last unfinished task.
Little has changed over the course of this five-month sprint for the Hawks and their beyond-his-years captain. Over the regular season, which started with a 21-0-3 thrill ride through the halfway mark, Toews only had four instances of two or more consecutive pointless outings.
But even when he was not producing, his exemplary efficiency in his own zone helped Chicago’s cause.
Look no further than the week of Feb. 19 through Feb. 25, when the captain had no points but the team went 4-0-0, outscoring the opposition by a cumulative count of 9-6 in regulation and overtime.
Of course, that vast quantity of victories hastened the Hawks’ efforts to clinch key postseason positions, which they have used to the fullest up to this point. In particular, they have made much of the privilege of home ice throughout the playoffs, with a 10-1 record at the United Center going into Saturday’s Game 2.
Chicago punched in its playoff ticket on April 7 in the second half of a home-and-home set with Nashville and the second installment of a seven-game winning streak. Toews tallied the game-clincher as well as a key assist, starting a 3G-5A-8PTS hot streak that coincided with Chicago’s seven straight victories.
The fourth installment of that streak cemented the Central Division, thus guaranteeing home ice for at least the first round, with a 3-2 shootout triumph over Detroit. Toews garnered first star of the game that evening.
The Hawks clinched the conference while idled between the sixth and seventh straight win. Afterwards, a slightly less pristine 1-1-1 run gave them the regular-season title with two tune-up tilts yet to come before the playoffs.
Since then, for the most part, Toews and company have throttled along to more achievements and more hardware.
Chicago dumped both Minnesota and Los Angeles in five games. The first of those series essentially featured a rerun of late February, as Toews again went pointless for four straight outings but still made substantial all-around contributions to a winning cause.
The only glaring speed bump so far was in the second round, when the Blackhawks brooked a 3-1 deficit amidst a slump characterized by Detroit flustering Toews.
But, naturally, the captain rebounded and renewed the spark for his team, allowing it to build on its otherworldly regular season as planned.
Now the Hawks must win three more games to garner the last missing element and Toews has an opportunity to copilot the final approach to a glorious landing while following up on his new title of two-way supremacy.
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