There shouldn’t be any question about Jonathan Toews’ value to the Chicago Blackhawks after Monday night.
It appeared all of the Blackhawks’ ills were cured by the return of their captain, even without Dave Bolland in the lineup, as the Hawks played perhaps their most complete game of the season.
The Los Angeles Kings came in with one of the best offenses in the NHL, and the Hawks had struggled to put points on the board. Specifically, the Blackhawks’ power play had been a sore spot; the Hawks had scored three goals on their last 33 power plays entering Monday’s action.
But Toews returned in a way that felt like a JRR Tolkein script, leading the Hawks to a dominating defensive performance and a steady scoring offense.
Almost everything that could have been considered wrong with the Blackhawks appeared to be fixed on Monday night. The power play, that didn’t exist for a couple weeks, scored on two of three opportunities. The third period, in which the Hawks were the lightest scoring team in the league, saw them score three goals to blow open a 1-1 tie. And Cristobal Huet was spectacular when called upon, stopping 17 of the 18 shots the high-powered Kings offense threw at him.
Troy Brouwer had his best performance of the season, scoring his fourth goal, adding two assists and being credited with six hits in the win. Brouwer and Toews both scored power play goals in the third period as the Hawks extended their lead, and Andrew Ebbett capped the scoring with his first goal with the Blackhawks, redirecting a Brian Campbell shot with what appeared to be his face.
The Blackhawks defense backed up claims that they’re the best in the NHL by holding the prolific Kings to their lowest shot total of the season so far (18). Huet was great in net, handling shots in traffic and after a few sloppy turnovers right in front of him by Duncan Keith and Campbell in the second period.
Chicago had 18 takeaways to the Kings’ seven, and were credited with 25 hits to LA’s 22. Overall the performance from the Blackhawks was nearly complete.
But it all comes back to Toews. In his first action since October 21, he led Chicago forwards in ice time (19:09), won 13 of 20 faceoffs, scored the power play goal and also drew a key penalty late in the third period to help the Hawks put the game away. Despite his absence being caused by a concussions, he didn’t shy away from contact; Toews was also credited with two hit on Monday night.