Healthy Jonathan Toews ready to get back to it with Blackhawks


Healthy Jonathan Toews ready to get back to it with Blackhawks

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jonathan Toews looked like a much healthier guy during the Blackhawks’ 35-minute practice session on Wednesday.

In other words, it was a complete 180 degrees from how he felt just over a week ago, when his illness caught up to him so much that he couldn’t play in the third period against the Carolina Hurricanes. And while Toews didn’t like having to miss the All-Star weekend in Nashville, using that week to get healthy was ultimately the best decision he could’ve made.

Toews said he is “very close” to 100 percent and he’ll play on Thursday night when the Blackhawks face the Arizona Coyotes. Toews battled illness for about two weeks — he took several morning skates off but played in all the games entering the All-Star break. He’s still not quite sure what he had, but whatever it was, it sapped him to the point that he had nothing left last Tuesday in Carolina.

“It was a lot of body aches and trouble sleeping, and it turned into a really bad cough where I was having trouble breathing on the ice,” Toews said on Wednesday. “It was just kind of a progression over pretty much a two-week period where it just kept getting worse. The fact that we were playing that many games, I just didn’t get a chance to recuperate and get back to 100 percent. So obviously ... this past week was pretty beneficial in that sense.”

[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Blackhawks score twice in first period, hang on to beat Avalanche]

The NHL named Toews as the Blackhawks’ second representative for last weekend’s All-Star festivities — Patrick Kane was voted in — but Toews bowed out last Thursday.

“It’s not an easy thing, considering the fact that you want to be there, you want to represent your team and your teammates and be there for the Hawks fans that are behind you. It’s always an honor and a special thing to be a part of something like that. But it just got to the point where things were not getting better,” Toews said. “The last number of games before the break were tough for us as a team, but for myself personally, I was (regressing) more and more. And coming down to it in the bigger picture, it was the right thing to do to make sure I was ready to play and be healthy coming out of the break.”

Per NHL rules, Toews was suspended for Tuesday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. Toews could have opted to miss the Blackhawks’ game against Carolina, the one he didn’t finish, but it sounds like he figured his illness would pass faster than it did.

“I guess there (are) just some moments where you have to be stubborn a little bit. You try and play through some things and obviously in that case, with what I was dealing with, you just hope it’s going to go away,” Toews said. “It just doesn’t, and it gets to the point where that’s the decision we had to make.”

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

Toews did what was necessary to get healthy again. The Blackhawks got a collective effort from everyone in his absence on Tuesday night, taking a 2-1 victory over the Avalanche. It was nerve-wracking for Toews to be watching from the sidelines. Now that he’s healthy, he can go back to being part of things.

“It doesn’t matter, any type of game when you’re watching, it’s always harder as an observer when you’re not quite in control, or at least you feel like you’re not in control of everything,” he said. “I think the boys were prepared yesterday, they were ready to go, and they did a great job. Obviously (I’m) excited and happy to be back amongst the group today and get back in the routine again.”

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

The Blackhawks made sports history on Saturday after they appeared in their fifth straight overtime game to start the season.

No NHL team has done that since the league introduced a regular-season overtime period in 1983-84, per the Elias Sports Bureau. It also has never happened in the history of MLB, NBA or NFL, showing just how crazy this early season run has been for the Blackhawks, who have rallied from all five games and have come away with wins in three of them.

"We’ve had five games, every one of them have been extremely intense and the game’s been on the line from start to finish," coach Joel Quenneville said following a 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. "Our group’s been competitive this year, the guys have been working hard for one another. I don’t know how many games we’ve been down in the third period, and coming back to win is special."

The Blackhawks appeared in 17 overtime/shootout games last season and won seven of them. They are one of six teams this season that have yet to pick up a regulation win.

On a separate note, Saturday marked the eighth time in Blackhawks history that one player scored a tying goal in the third period and scored in overtime (Alex DeBrincat), according to the NHL's PR department. It's the second time it's happened this year for the Blackhawks, with Jonathan Toews the other on Oct. 6 against St. Louis.

Four takeaways: Alex DeBrincat salvages divisional game for Blackhawks in overtime on Duncan Keith’s special night

Four takeaways: Alex DeBrincat salvages divisional game for Blackhawks in overtime on Duncan Keith’s special night

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues at the United Center on Saturday night:

1. Special night for Duncan Keith — and Brent Seabrook

The Blackhawks celebrated Keith's 1,000-game milestone in the perfect way. Every player wore a No. 2 jersey during warmups, his family was on the ice for the pregame ceremony, and Patrick Sharp made an appearance to present Keith with a silver stick. Seabrook was also paired with Keith among the starters, a great touch by Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff.

But it was also a historic day for Keith's partner and close friend Seabrook, who became the franchise leader in games played by a defenseman, surpassing Bob Murray who previously held that mark at 1,008. It's only fitting Keith and Seabrook shared that moment together.

"We've been riding shotgun together for our whole careers," Keith said. "I couldn't imagine my career, my 1,000 games without him and all the experiences and memories that I've had winning and even losing, and the fun times we've had off the ice. I owe a lot of my success, and I think the team does as well, to Brent and what he means to the team and what he brings to our friendship and as a teammate."

To put a bow on the game, Keith had a vintage Keith moment on the game-tying goal in the third period when he intercepted a pass in the neutral zone on his backhand, then fed Toews a dart leading him into the offensive zone that set up DeBrincat's goal. 

2. Alex DeBrincat's torrid start

The Blackhawks continued to get contributions from their top players such as Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, both of whom extended their point streaks to five games to open the season. But DeBrincat has propelled himself into that conversation as a top player on this team.

He had a multi-goal effort for the second straight game, upping his goal total on the season to a team-leading six. His overtime winner is the first of his NHL career in that fashion.

DeBrincat didn't score his sixth goal until Nov. 12 last season, which was the 18th game. And he still finished with 28. While it's hard to envision him continuing to score at more than a goal-per-game pace, it's not hard to see him continuing to be one of the best players on the ice and generating offense and scoring chances on a nightly basis.

"I think I'm getting pretty lucky right now," DeBrincat said. "I'm playing with [Toews] and [Dominik] Kahun, they're making great plays and getting me the puck. It's pretty easy when you have those guys as your linemates. Even on that last goal, [Erik Gustafsson] made a great pass backdoor to me. Pretty easy tap in."

3. Squandering another two-goal lead

The Blackhawks took a 2-0 lead for the third straight game. And they squandered it for the third straight game, in large part because they committed five straight penalties in the second and third periods.

It's no longer a blip at this point and is becoming an alarming trend, even though the Blackhawks have come back to force overtime in each of those three games. That will be something the Blackhawks work on all season long.

But Quenneville would have liked to have seen the Blackhawks keep their foot on the gas pedal and cash in on their opportunities to make it a 3-0 game.

"Score the third goal," he said. "I loved the way we were playing. We had a lot of good things going. Eventually they’re going to get chances, get opportunities. But we had some great chances to get it to three. It was one of those nights, every game is kind of different how the leads changed."

4. Brotherly love

For the first time in the NHL, the Schmaltz brothers finally got their chance to go up against each other at the highest level. There had been a handful of other opportunities in the past, but it never lined up for a variety of reasons. 

They didn't see much of each other while on the ice — they were on together for only 1:30 of the game — but Nick did commit a penalty that led to Jordan assisting on the Blues' first goal on a delayed call. 

The best battles between Jordan, who turned 25 on Oct. 8, and Nick, 22, came when they were kids.

"We had a little roller rink downstairs in our house growing up," Nick said. "It would be me vs. my sister (Kylie) and my brother. Those were probably the best battles. Someone would usually come up crying or high-stick or puck to the face or something like that. A lot of good memories. Looking back at it, it was awesome to have that and work on each other’s game and push each other to get better."