Blackhawks

Jonathan Toews continues to lead by example for Blackhawks

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Jonathan Toews continues to lead by example for Blackhawks

ANAHEIM, Calif. – The question always arises at this time of year, especially as the playoffs continue: whose top players will perform as such?

Two postseasons ago, Jonathan Toews had his struggles in that department. He wasn’t scoring, and he was losing his cool to the point where defenseman Brent Seabrook had to give him a penalty-box pep talk in the second round against Detroit.

But more often than not, Toews is the one doing the calming as well as the leading. And throughout this series, especially in critical situations, Toews was also doing the scoring.

Toews led the best way possible on Saturday night, scoring the first two goals as the Blackhawks went on to beat the Anaheim Ducks 5-3 in Game 7 of the Western Conference final. It was a stellar game for Toews, who didn’t do too shabby in the series overall, either. Toews scored five goals in the Blackhawks’ last four games against the Ducks; the Blackhawks went 3-1 in those games, and his two goals late in Game 5 pushed the team to an overtime that didn’t seem plausible.

So with the postseason on the line, any surprise Toews was the catalyst on Saturday?

“No, not at all,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He’s an amazing person, an amazing hockey player. The bigger the stage, the setup, he seems to excel. He shows he’s a good a leader in any sport.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the Stanley Cup Final, Blackhawks fans!]

Ultimately, Toews is just trying to fulfill the captain’s job description.

“You want to consider yourself that type of player at the end of the day but it helps when you’re alongside guys with those same intangibles,” he said. “The guy I’m sitting with right here [Duncan Keith], [Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp,] you go down the list of guys who have been around for years and have the experience in the playoffs. We feed off each other.”

And in the opening minutes, the Blackhawks were feeding off Toews. He was there when Frederik Andersen gave up the rebound on Niklas Hjalmarsson’s shot, scoring to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead just 2:23 into the game. He scored a power-play goal later in the period for a 2-0 lead that set the Blackhawks on their way.

“It speaks volumes about the character in this room and the leadership starting with the captain; you get two goals right away,” said Kane. “It’s pretty remarkable how he shows up in these games and seems to come through time after time.”

Linemate Brandon Saad said Toews, “is our leader on and off the ice. For us to go out there and for him those goals early for us, it gives the whole team confidence.”

[MORE: Blackhawks start fast, top Ducks in Game 7 to advance to Stanley Cup Final]

Top players get questioned a lot this time of year. They’re expected to lead on the ice as well as off it. They’re expected to be there with the big goals at the critical times. Toews is used to massive expectations. In many postseasons, including this one, he’s met them.

“I hope so, maybe for at least one period,” Toews said about getting the right performance. “Across the group, we kind of want to own up to each other, be accountable. We have a great leadership group everyone responds to. Everyone wants to contribute. As an individual, that’s all you can ask for.”

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: How should Blackhawks handle Kirby Dach's future?

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USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: How should Blackhawks handle Kirby Dach's future?

Should Kirby Dach see more ice time? What should the Blackhawks do with Erik Gustafsson? Has Robin Lehner separated himself in the goalie tandem?

Patrick Sharp and Charlie Roumeliotis join Pat Boyle to discuss that and much more on the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast. Plus, you'll hear Robin Lehner's postgame comments after the loss to the Golden Knights and why he thinks the Blackhawks are "really close" to putting it all together.

1:08 - Blackhawks come up with best defensive effort of the season

2:52 - Changes made to the power play units

4:14 - Evaluating Erik Gustafsson's play so far

6:04 - Who fills in after the Connor Murphy injury

7:49 - Patrick Sharp remembers Patrick Kane rookie season

9:08 - What does the future hold for Kirby Dach?

12:04 - Struggles of the Blackhawks' top-six

14:44 - Another strong performance by Robin Lehner

16:33 - Lehner's strong post-game comments after Vegas loss

20:07 - How to handle the goalie-split going forward

23:25 - Biggest thing the Blackhawks need to improve upon

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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Blackhawks expected to be without Connor Murphy (groin injury) for 'a couple weeks'

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AP

Blackhawks expected to be without Connor Murphy (groin injury) for 'a couple weeks'

The Blackhawks are expected to be without defenseman Connor Murphy for "a couple weeks" after he left in the second period of Tuesday's 2-1 shootout loss to the Vegas Golden Knights because of a groin injury, coach Jeremy Colliton confirmed after the game.

It's the same injury that sidelined Murphy for the season opener in Prague, which is unfortunate given his promotion to the top pairing with Duncan Keith has provided some stability on all three pairings. 

"Obviously that's a blow for us," Colliton said. "It's an opportunity for other guys. We think we need to continue to build depth. That's what we're going to need. We can't just play with six D or seven D all year. You're going to need more than that. That'll be an opportunity for other guys to grow."

Slater Koekkoek is serving as the seventh defenseman right now and he's the likely candidate to slide into Murphy's spot in the lineup. But the Blackhawks might be inclined to make a call-up from Rockford as insurance.

Dennis Gilbert started the season with the Blackhawks because Murphy and Calvin de Haan were not cleared to play overseas, so he's a potential candidate to be brought back up.

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.