Rookie forward Alex DeBrincat will play on the first line, joining Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad, when the Chicago Blackhawks play the Nashville Predators at United Center on Friday.
Toews became captain before the 2008-09 season, his second with the Blackhawks. He had played all of 64 NHL games. No one in League history had been named captain faster.
“We’ve been playing good hockey at times, sporadically, but obviously it’s not good enough,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “We get ourselves down in games and it’s just too little too late to try and come back. Throughout our games there’s some good things here and there. We’ve just got to be way more consistent.
Find a way to keep Jonathan Toews off the scoresheet. The St. Louis Blues eliminated the Blackhawks last spring in part because Toews was held without a goal in all seven games. Toews now has a playoff goal drought of 10 games, reaching back to the 2015 Stanley Cup finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Nashville needs to keep that drought going.
The Blackhawks have lost in the first round of the playoffs that past two years, which knocked Toews and Kane down on this list. Also, Toews’ offense has dipped. His 0.29 goals per game last season were the lowest of his career. Rinne’s backhand save with his blocker on Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews at 5:11 of the third period.
“It’s a tough loss but we played well. We can definitely build on a lot of things tonight and just bring that tomorrow. We were skating well and moving the puck, being creative offensively with speed. Couldn’t really ask for more. I guess we just needed some puck luck around the net. But we did a lot of good things.”
Toews was outplayed by Ryan Johansen and Nashville’s top line as the Predators swept the top-seeded Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs in April. Still, he rejects the notion that this season is any more important than his previous time in the league.
“It was a slow start,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “We didn’t talk about much systematically or mistakes we were making. We talked about speed and effort and changed the lines to cheap hockey jerseys give it a different look, but you’ve got to give the players the credit because they went out in the second and third period and won a hockey game.”
After Jonathan Toews blocked a Jason Demers shot, he found Kane with a stretch pass behind Coyotes forward Brad Richardson and defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and Kane went backhand to forehand before beating Domingue five-hole.
Kane has consistently been a point-per-game player every season since 2009, except for one blip in 2011-12. He and Toews also have identical eight-year, $84 million contracts that kicked in during the 2015-16 season. Those deals carry a $10.5 million annual cap hit through 2022-23, which lessens their combined values vs. point production compared to the rest of the duos on this list.
Others in the summer training group with Toews and Patrick included Calgary Flames defenseman Travis Hamonic and Vegas Golden Knights forward Cody Eakin. While Patrick basked in Toews’ wisdom, Patrick’s youthful energy of Patrick did something for Toews.
While Toews’ scoring slipped last season, he finished with 37 assists, right in line with his career numbers. He helped Panik turn into a steady presence, and coach Joel Quenneville doesn’t sound a bit concerned about how Toews will perform this year.
“It’s a fun, exciting atmosphere. There’s no doubt they’re excited to play and just to go out there and not necessarily be the underdogs, but just go out there and try and make teams make plays and score and frustrate them, and they’re really keying off that and getting some energy off that.”
His businesslike manner earned Toews the nickname “Captain Serious.” But it also showed that he’s the kind of player who never takes a night off and sets the kind of example that winning teams feed off. Toews doesn’t put up the kind of offensive numbers that longtime teammate Patrick Kane does, but his defensive skills, leadership and willing to do a lot of the grunt work that turn teams into champions are a big reason the Blackhawks are enjoying the greatest decade in their history.