DETROIT — He’s won a Stanley Cup, the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP and even an Olympic gold medal.
But Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews has just one assist in four games of the Western Conference semifinals. And after Thursday’s 2-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings in Game 4, his team is one game away from elimination and his frustration is boiling over.
That’s because Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg — who’s also won a Stanley Cup, a Conn Smythe and an Olympic gold medal — has taken residence in Toews’ head.
Zetterberg is preventing Toews from doing all of the things he’s accustomed to doing on the ice.
“He’s really good at that,” Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said of Zetterberg. “We saw that early and in previous years, too, when he played against (Pittsburgh captain Sidney) Crosby.
“So we know that he’s a pain in the a** for the other team and that’s the way we like him.”
Ah, yes, Crosby, who had 15 goals and 31 assists in the 2008 playoffs. But only two of those goals and four of those assists came against the Wings in the Cup Final.
Now Toews is getting the Crosby treatment and doesn’t appear to be enjoying it very much.
Toews took three penalties in the first 11 minutes of the second period Thursday. Two of those were high-sticking, the other hooking.
“I’m not going to say anything about the officiating,” Toews said. “Obviously, I disagree with the calls, but it’s in the heat of the moment.
“They see what they see. I’ve gotta be careful of my stick. That doesn’t help my team, but I still think we played hard through it, found a way to stay in the game, killed off two big penalties.”
The Blackhawks killed off two of the penalties, but the Wings finally scored on the power play on the second of Toews’ penalties, their first power-play goal of the series.
With just a second remaining before Toews’ return from the box, Jakub Kindl scored from just below the left circle at 10:03 of the second.
“That was huge for all of us,” Kindl said. “We knew we had to pick it up on our power play. They’ve been playing so good as a team on the PK.
“This was the biggest game of my life so far and the biggest goal I’ve had.”
Damien Brunner, playing his first season with Zetterberg, said he’s glad he’s not playing against him.
“Unbelievable,” Brunner said of Zetterberg’s play. “He’s making it hard on (Toews) and frustrating him as good as he can.”
As would be expected of the Wings’ humble captain Zetterberg, he’s downplaying the effect he’s had on Toews.
“It’s a lot of emotions in playoffs,” Zetterberg said. “He’s a really good player. I didn’t see the penalties, so I can’t say if they were frustration penalties.
“You got to be aware of him. He created a lot of chances today. Howie (Jimmy Howard) really saved us.”
Television replays showed Toews taking extra whacks with his stick at Zetterberg, with the referee in the middle of them, then again when the two were headed for their respective benches.
“He (Zetterberg) plays the game really hard, makes it hard on the other team’s centermen,” Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “He’s been doing that all year for us. He’s been outstanding.”
Although Zetterberg took a hooking penalty of his own, he and the other veterans on the Wings have been very disciplined, making sure not to overreact to being hooked or slashed.
“You don’t want to get too high or too low,” Zetterberg said. “In the first series (against the Anaheim Ducks), it was a little up and down. We played one good game then one bad game.
“We tried to be calm (Thursday), not get too fired up or caught up in the moment — just play the way we should play. And if we do that, we’ll have a good chance of winning.”
All Zetterberg has to do is stay in Toews’ head one more game and the Red Wings will have won their way right into the conference final.