Thursday, June 10, 2010

Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks bring the Stanley Cup home with OT win in Philadelphia


Summer is about to begin, but the drought is officially over in Chicago... 49 years after the Blackhawks last lifted the Stanley Cup, a new generation of NHL stars has brought the Cup home to the Windy City. With Patrick Kane’s overtime winner, that for a moment had Dallas/Buffalo in 1999 written all over it, the NHL season ended. In a year with so many upsets, so many surprises and so many new heroes emerging, could it have ended any other way?

The 4-3 Chicago victory in Game 6 over the Philadelphia Flyers ended the longest Stanley Cup drought in the NHL and brought the Cup home to an Original 6 city that has witnessed an unbelievable resurgence in recent years. Although they ended up on the losing end in the series, it should not go unmentioned that the Flyers had an incredible run through the post season as well, and should be congratulated as the Eastern Conference Champions. This year's Stanley Cup Final had so many stories, over the next few weeks, TVOS will look at many of them. For today though, let's look at Chicago’s 34th Captain and Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP, Jonathan Toews.

Despite being held off the scoreboard for most of the Final, limited to just three assists in the deciding series, Toews led the way for his team throughout the playoffs with 7 goals and 22 assists; his 29 playoff points was only one behind the overall leader, Philadelphia’s Danny Briere (12 goals, 18 assists). Much like his Olympic experience, Toews brought more then just his goal scoring ability to the rink every game. Whenever there was a crucial face-off in either zone, Toews was on the ice and his winning percentage of 60.2% was third best in the playoffs, behind Washington’s Eric Belanger (66.7%) and San Jose’s Manny Malhotra (60.7%). Of course, Belanger only played 7 games; Malhotra played 15.

Head Coach Joel Quenneville called Toews a “special human being” and went on to explain what Toews brings to the ‘Hawks. “The bigger the setting, the bigger the game, the bigger he seems to rise to that challenge and that occasion,” said Quenneville. “He was a big factor tonight; he was a big factor in his leadership. He doesn’t say too much, but his competitiveness of wanting to be the best he can be every time he hits the ice is noticed.”

Singled out for his leadership by Quenneville and his teammates, Toews quickly shifted the praise to his fellow Blackhawks, “It’s every single guy, it’s the sacrifices every guy made; it is an unbelievable road, and a long one, but we worked hard to get here.”

For Toews, the win caps an incredible year that saw him win an Olympic Gold in Vancouver, being named the tournament’s top forward and leading Team Canada in scoring, receiving the Conn Smythe Trophy, and of course, the Stanley Cup. During my post-Olympic conversation with Edmonton Oilers President Kevin Lowe, when asked which player was the biggest surprise for the Team Canada Managers, Lowe said without hesitation that Toews surpassed all of their expectations and praised the young forward for his “overall poise and play, offensively, defensively and physically.” The experience gained in Vancouver certainly helped Toews bring his game to a new level - a championship level.

With the win, Toews becomes the 24th member of the exclusive Triple Gold Club, and the youngest - he has Gold from the 2007 World Championships, his 2010 Olympic Gold and now Lord Stanley’s Cup. He joins fellow Canadians, Rob Blake, Scott Niedermayer, Joe Sakic, Brendan Shanahan, Chris Pronger and Eric Staal in the TGC.

One month after turning 22-years-old, Toews already has an impressive resume; World Junior Champion (2007), World Champion (2007), nominated for the Calder Trophy (2008), Olympic Champion (2010), a Conn Smythe Trophy and perhaps most importantly for the Winnipeg, Manitoba native, 2010 Stanley Cup Champion.

Photo by Dinur on Flickr.com

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