Waiting on The Captain: Revisiting the ‘Hawks With and Without Toews
Thearon W. Henderson, Getty Images
Now that Jonathan Toews has been cleared for contact, it’s all up to him when he’s ready to don the Indian head once again. While Thursday would be ideal, the Captain has to be sure not to get Sidney Crosby-ed by returning too soon.
It’s a waiting game the Blackhawks have been playing since late February, and 22 games already have passed since Toews last suited up. I’m sure part of you has gotten used to him not being on the ice – especially given the ‘Hawks haven’t been as bad as expected without him – but it still won’t feel right if Toews isn’t on the desert ice in Game 1 against Phoenix.
A playoff series without the captain is probably the worst thing we expected when all of this came to light, and we’re only days away from having to take the ice without the 2010 Conn Smythe winner.
How much will the ‘Hawks miss him if he doesn’t play? Let’s take a look at some team statistics before and after the concussion. The stats listed before the concussion do include Toews missing a Jan. 24th loss to Nashville with an upper-body injury before suffering his concussion.
Oct. 7 through Feb. 19
♦ The Blackhawks were 32-21-7 and were sixth in the Western Conference with 71 points
♦ Their 185 goals ranked 3rd in the NHL. The 175 goals allowed ranked 25th
♦ The power play was converting at a 16.4 percent clip, good for 19th in the league
♦ The penalty kill still sucked, killing 78.9 percent for 26th
♦ ‘Hawks averaged 32.0 shots per game, good for 6th
♦ The kicker: Blackhawks’ faceoff percentage was 51.5, ranking 6th in the NHL
Feb. 21 through April 7
♦ ‘Hawks went 13-5-4 without Toews down the stretch and didn’t lose any ground, nor did they gain any
♦ They scored 56 goals in that stretch, tied for 20th in the league between those dates. They also allowed 56 goals, which ranked 12th
♦ The power play went 9 for 76. Yep, 9 for 76, with the 11.8 percent conversion rate ranking 29th.
♦ The PK was even shittier, stopping only 75 percent for a rank of 28th.
♦ Shots per game went down to 30.3 – 12th in the league in that time frame
♦ The faceoff percentage? Down to 47.9, ranking 26th
Stepping up with Toews out (Since Feb. 21)
Marian Hossa – 6 goals, 13 assists
Patrick Kane – 12 G, 7 A
Patrick Sharp – 9 G, 9 A
Andrew Shaw – 7 G, 7 A in only 18 games since rejoining the team Feb. 29
Viktor Stalberg – 6 G, 5 A
The Blackhawks’ record wasn’t terrible – even though a few of their opponents were – in the 22 games without Toews, but clearly there are deficiencies in the ‘Hawks game. None of this stuff is Earth-shattering, but the offense clearly suffered, and you have to wonder who is going to take a big in-zone faceoff during a critical moment in a playoff game without Toews.
You could say the ‘Hawks have been playing playoff games for the past few weeks without him already, but playing Columbus isn’t like playing at hot Phoenix team that has won five straight with a goaltender in Mike Smith who is the hottest in the league right now.
It was great to see Hossa, Kane, Sharp, Shaw and Stalberg put up solid numbers in Toews’ absence, and that’ll have to continue if Toews can’t get out on the ice by the time the series starts. And if he does sit out Game 1, hopefully it’s only Game 1.
The Blackhawks still can – and should – win this series without Toews, but let’s not chance it, eh? Get that noggin feeling right, captain.
About the author
Editor/founder of Cheer the Anthem, season ticket holder in Section 326 and full-time sports writer who lists June 9, 2010, as one of the greatest days of his life. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.