Toews leads Blackhawks into home opener against Maple Leafs
CHICAGO — If the Chicago Blackhawks have any chance of rebounding from last year’s last-place finish in the Western Conference’s Central Division, getting contributions from their big-name veterans will play a big role.
That’s where captain Jonathan Toews enters the picture.
Heading into the Blackhawks’ home opener Sunday against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toews has produced goals in the first two games of the season for the first time in his career.
Toews had three goals in a 5-4 overtime victory over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night in which the Blackhawks watched a one-goal lead vanish in the third period when the Blues scored twice in a 22-second span to take the lead. But Chicago responded with a Toews game-tying goal in the third period before he delivered the winner at 2:20 of overtime.
“Johnny’s been unbelievable the first two games as far as leading the way and leading the charge,” Chicago winger Patrick Kane told reporters after Saturday’s victory, according to the Blackhawks’ official website. “You couldn’t really ask much more from the captain.”
While the Blackhawks will carry the momentum of back-to-back overtime victories into Sunday’s game at the United Center, the fact that Toews has found a way to come up with a heavy dose of early season production with his four goals is a serious positive for the Blackhawks moving forward.
“Johnny looked powerful,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville told reporters after Chicago’s season-opening victory over the Ottawa Senators, according to The Athletic. “He was quick in the puck area, got some explosiveness out of it. Got some free pucks. With his line having the puck, or him having the puck. A lot of things can happen.”
As one of Chicago’s aging veterans, Toews understands what a fast start could mean for him — and the Blackhawks. But after an off season, both from a personal and team standpoint, Toews said that getting back to basics could go a long way as he attempts to bounce back.
“We’re all trying to find our legs and get used to that pace and get our timing down, myself included,” Toews said, according to The Athletic. “As the game went on, I just felt a little bit more comfortable. I think as a team, we did a better job winning our battles and just being tough in the puck areas later in the game. Hopefully, I can build off of that.”
The Blackhawks will face the Maple Leafs, who dropped a 5-3 decision to the Senators on Saturday.
Toronto, which scored all three of its goals in the second period, couldn’t produce the equalizer after Ottawa scored 1:42 into the third period before the Senators picked up an empty-net goal with 25 seconds remaining.
Despite the Maple Leafs’ loss on Saturday, Andersen was encouraged by how his teammates played in front of him.
“I thought we had a good game,” Andersen said, according to NHL.com. “I think we created some good opportunities to score and so did (Ottawa), but they scored a little bit more. They got the most of their opportunities.”
Leafs forward Auston Matthews also saw improvement.
“I think we played a much better game than we did opening night,” Matthews said, according to NHL.com.