Toews growing Stanley Cup beard and maturity
(Reuters) - Four years ago when the Chicago Blackhawks won their last Stanley Cup it seemed the only thing their precocious young captain Jonathan Toews could not do was grow a proper playoff beard.
Toews finished those playoffs scoring seven goals and 29 points in 22 games, claiming a Conn Smythe trophy as the post-season's most valuable player and adding his name on the Stanley Cup.
Back in the finals and ready to faceoff against the Boston Bruins in Game One of the best-of-seven series on Wednesday, Toews is sporting a much more impressive beard this time around but his scoring has not been nearly as striking.
With one goal through the first three playoff rounds, Toews' point production may be spotty but his confidence and maturity have grown to the point where he does not obsess over it like he might have earlier in his career.
"When pucks weren't really going in and I didn't seem to be contributing the way I know I could, people can say whatever they want to say," Toews told reporters during the Stanley Cup media day on Tuesday. "But I haven't let it bother me. I haven't let it hurt my confidence.
"I don't think anything in my game has digressed the last couple of years, I think I have only gotten better.
"The easy thing to notice is when you score points but I feel like there are still a lot of good things in my game."
While Toews waits for his scoring touch to return, the 25-year-old Canadian has found other ways to contribute to the Chicago cause.
He remains one of hockey's hardest workers, leads all Chicago forwards in ice time and is tops in faceoffs.
The only goal that is on Toews' mind these days is not the one he hasn't scored but the team objective of winning another Stanley Cup.
"We (Toews and team mate Patrick Kane) have both gone through some moments in the playoffs where people are kind of looking at a lack of contribution, we're not really too worried about it," said Toews. "We know there are a lot of good things we can do out there.
"The big reason why we are here is that we play so well as a team...that's the way it's got to be and the way we are going to win this series as well."
Since Chicago claimed Toews with the third overall pick in the 2006 draft the forward has gone from strength-to-strength.
In his first season he was a finalist for rookie of the year and in his second campaign he was made captain.
Nicknamed Captain Serious, Toews has always been viewed as mature beyond his years, providing him with the perspective needed to wait out a scoring slump.
"I think you just get that experience and you understand that, hey, not everything is going to go your way, not everything is going to be seen the same way from different people," said Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith.
"I think he's done a good job just keeping a level head. That's what makes him a great player."
Just 25, Toews is already a member of the Triple Gold club limited to players with a Stanley Cup and Olympic and world championship titles on their resumes.
He has twice played for Canada at the world championships winning gold and silver and was golden again at the Vancouver Winter Games, named to the Olympic all-star team.
But it is the soft-spoken Toews' feisty determination and intensity that are seen as his greatest qualities, leading by example rather than words.
"In 2010 when we went all the way to Stanley Cup final we didn't really know how good our team was," recalled Toews. "We went out there and won games and the next thing you know we were winning the Stanley Cup.
"Coming back here we realize how tough it is, how rare this opportunity is because we worked so hard to get here."
(Editing by Julian Linden)