Jonathan Toews had sensational underlying analytics last season. When he was on the ice at 5-on-5, the Blackhawks controlled 56.7 percent of the shot attempts and generated 56.3 percent of the scoring chances, according to naturalstattrick.com. He was among the NHL's leaders in both categories.
And yet, Toews went through the most difficult stretch of his professional career, statistically, by finishing with a career-low 20 goals and 52 points — although he missed the final eight games with an injury. It didn't make any sense.
Whether it was lack of puck luck or something he wasn't doing, Toews made it a priority to closely watch his shifts from last season to help change his fortunes this season. He started focusing more on his game positionally and trying to make skilled plays with the puck rather than being quick to give it up when he maybe thought guys were on top of him. And it paid off.
In Year 12 of his NHL career, Toews set a career high in goals (35), assists (46) and points (81) and appeared in all 82 games for the first time since the 2008-09 campaign.
"It's progress," Toews said when asked to assess his season individually. "I like just where my offensive game is going. I feel like I learned a lot about my own preparation whether it's on the ice or off the ice. The game's changing, it's so skilled, it's so fast nowadays. You can't be satisfied with things that you do in the past. You have got to keep adapting, keep growing, keep finding ways to get better. And I feel like I'm doing that and excited to see where my game can continue to go in the next couple years."
Perhaps the most impressive part of his resurgence is that it came at the age of 30, which can be a scary number for athletes because it indicates they’ve approached the back half of their careers. But Toews, who turned 31 on Monday, seemingly got faster and stronger and he was heavily relied upon.
During the 2018-19 season, the Blackhawks captain had the most offensive zone starts of his career. He also had his most defensive starts, proving he was leaned on in all three zones. But the offensive production coming along really takes a weight off his shoulders going into the offseason because there were times in previous years where the doubt got to him.
"It was fun to go out there and score and just have that confident feeling that you can go out there and create regardless of who you're playing with on any given night,” Toews said. “It’s a feeling I didn't really have the last couple years and people start talking and doubting what you're able to do so it's sometimes hard to not let that creep into your own mind and into your own game. I feel like I took a good step forward in that sense this year."
But there’s no satisfaction here. Elite players like Toews are constantly striving to get better. Is there room for improvement?
“Oh, absolutely,” he said.
A smiling Toews responded: "All areas."Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.