Jonathan Toews has never been known to be a big-time goal scorer or point producer. He’s widely regarded as one of the top two-way players in hockey and has been since he entered the NHL in 2007.
But when he contributes on offense, the Blackhawks are a better overall team and it's shown over the last few weeks.
Before Tuesday's game against Calgary, I brought up to Toews that his offense has been coming more naturally and consistently for a while now.
“Has it?” Toews said. “I guess if you’re telling me that, it’s a good thing.”
I responded by asking him whether he disagrees. After all, he is a harsh self-critic and always feels like there’s another level he can get to no matter how well he’s playing.
“I mean, I still feel like there’s more on the table and I’m not exactly happy with my production as it is,” Toews said. “But I’m finding ways to get the puck and be creative with it and play with confidence."
Toews is selling himself a little bit short.
He got off to a slow start this season, recording only two points (one goal, one assist) in his first 11 games. But since the calendar flipped to November, the Blackhawks captain is producing at nearly a point-per-game pace with 33 tallies (10 goals, 23 assists) in 35 games. The goals aren't coming at a similar rate, but the point production is right on par with last season, when he had his best statistical output with 81 points (35 goals, 46 assists) in 82 games.
Toews has three multi-point efforts in his last five games and is up to 10 total on the season. He hasn't gone more than two games without registering at least one point since October, which shows the consistency in his production. And it hasn't gone unnoticed.
"As the year has gone on he's getting better and better playing a hard game and taking the puck to the net and gaining confidence he's going to make a difference for us offensively," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "He knows he's a great player and he knows he can make a difference for us but it's another thing to see the puck go into the net and get that feeling that he's producing for the team. Positive to see."
Toews is also doing a better job at creating chances.
In the last five games, the Blackhawks are controlling 58.2 of the shot attempts, 59.1 of the scoring chances and 59.4 of the high-danger chances when Toews is on the ice during 5-on-5 action, according to Natural Stat Trick.
On Thursday against Nashville, Toews had a game-high seven controlled entries and possessed the puck on his stick in the offensive zone for 0:52, according to Sportlogiq. Only Patrick Kane had the puck on his stick longer (1:13).
On Saturday against Anaheim, it was a similar story. Toews had a game-high eight controlled zone entries, generated one scoring chance off the rush (which he scored on) and possessed the puck on his stick in the offensive zone for 0:33. Again, only Kane had the puck on his stick longer (0:54).
Even though the offense has started to flow, Toews will always pride himself on the way he defends and making sure he’s on the positive side of the goals for and against category. He has minus-6 rating for the season, but he's a plus-4 over his last five games if you exclude the two empty-net goals by Nashville on Thursday.
"No, no, I feel like I’m playing better hockey," Toews said. "I look at my plus-minus and it’s nice to get a few plusses here and there. You know you’re on the right side of the puck and you’re creating, but also being responsible and not giving up too much on your own side."
At the same time...
"You can’t just be relying on 88 to put up three or four points a night," Toews said smiling. "So we’ve got to spread it around a little bit."
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