According to Tracey Myers of CSN Chicago, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews is improving and should be available for Game 6. This comes after Toews took a vicious hit from Boston Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk.
There may be a risk to doing so, but Toews' only option is to fight through injury in Game 6.
Toews took a beating in Game 5, receiving hits from multiple players as Boston continued to rough up the former Conn Smythe Trophy winner. Late in the second period, Toews took one hit that kept him down, as Boychuk came across to lay him out.
Toews proceeded to miss the entire third period of play, which resulted in some calling Boychuk's method of play into question. Per Myers:
“It’s one of those hits in a tight area in front of the net (where) you could be vulnerable for a big hit. First point of contact, you could talk about, but I don’t think there’s, I’m not going to go there," said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville.
“I seem to get matched up against Boychuk quite a bit in this series. He's taken some runs at me. But I can't really complain (about) how he's hit me,” [Blackhawks forward Patrick] Sharp said. “He plays the game hard, he's pretty honest. I think every series we've been a part of things get a little bit more intense as they go along, a lot more trashing talking, physical play on both sides.”
The NHL did not suspend Boychuk and the Blackhawks appear to be without any form of bitter reaction.
or foul, Toews will be feeling pain and his Game 6 eligibility remains in question. While it's more than likely that he does play, there is the ultimate risk of re-aggravation.
On this stage, however, Toews cannot afford to miss a game—not against the Bruins.
Finding His Form
Through his first 20 postseason games, Jonathan Toews managed to tally just nine points. Over the course of his past two games, however, Toews has three points, picking up one goal and two assists.
Missing time after he's finally found his form just isn't an option.
The Bruins owned a 2-1 series lead over the Blackhawks, holding Chicago to just one goal through Games 2 and 3. In the two games since, the Blackhawks have tallied nine total goals, with Toews factoring in on three of them.
As Toews goes, so does Chicago.
During the 2013 NHL playoffs, the Blackhawks are 8-0 when Toews is able to pick up at least one point. That includes two of the three wins during the Stanley Cup Final and the two victories that helped Chicago force a Game 7 after being down 3-1 against the Detroit Red Wings.
To put it simply, not only does Toews need to play, he needs to produce.
Game 7 Uncertainty
In an ideal world, the Chicago Blackhawks could afford to lose Game 6 and thus feel comfortable winning Game 7 at home. With that being said, hosting the final game of the series at the United Center is hardly a guarantee of victory.
Especially not against the Boston Bruins.
In four series, the Bruins have collected six road victories. That includes Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, when they defeated the Chicago Blackhawks by a score of 2-1.
The only thing hosting Game 7 guarantees is that we'll be in for one heck of a contest.
If Toews is able to play in Game 6, however, he'll continue to give his team a strong chance at victory. While winning without Toews is a possibility, the combination of him and Patrick Kane appears to have finally gained traction in this year's postseason.
Chicago has momentum right now, and its best chance of closing out the series in Game 6 is to have Toews on the ice.
Jonathan Toews is one of the best players in the world, and oftentimes, he's revered for his ability to produce offensively. The fact of the matter is, Toews' elite offensive abilities are only half of the story when it comes to his greatness.
Toews' defense is what separates him from the pack.
Toews won the 2013 Frank J. Selke Trophy, which is given to the top defensive forward in the NHL. Those abilities have been on full display during the Stanley Cup Final, as Toews has been excellent at countering the supremely productive line of Nathan Horton, David Krejci and Milan Lucic.
Without Toews on the ice, that trio will attack Corey Crawford with relentless pursuit and thus give Boston the upper hand.
Toews may not be alone in his defensive ability, but he's Chicago's leader at both ends of the ice. Without his activity, Chicago simply isn't the same championship-contending team.
Fortunately for the Blackhawks, according to Scott Powers of ESPNChicago.com, Quenneville is optimistic that his captain will be on the ice for Game 6, a true blessing for the Blackhawks.