BOSTON — Jonathan Toews was still on his knees behind the Bruins net in the second period Thursday night as Dennis Seidenberg was escorted to the penalty box for the hit that put him there: a shoulder to the back that sent Toews face-first into the Blue Cross Blue Shield ad along the boards. After several seconds, Toews got up and trudged toward the bench, but stopped at the boards.
“Five-on-three [power play], I wouldn’t want to come off, either,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “I don’t think anybody would want to come off in that situation. He’s a competitive guy.”
Maybe too competitive. Toews stayed on the ice, got thrown out of a faceoff, took a penalty, sat it out, then left the game for good as the Hawks beat the Bruins 3-2 to win their eighth straight game.
Quenneville didn’t seem too concerned about Toews’ short-term status. He said that Toews — who has had at least two concussions in his career — “seemed all right,” but would have a better idea on Friday. While Toews never came off the ice for evaluation, Quenneville said it was up to the entire staff to decide if Toews could keep playing.
The NHL’s department of player safety is looking into the hit (click here to see an animated GIF of the hit, via @myregularface).
Boston coach Claude Julien assigned much of the blame to Toews.
“We need to start educating our players to protect themselves better,” Julien said. “We keep turning our backs. We keep trying to curl away. A player’s job is to finish his check. So a player should know he’s going to be hit, and I think it’s not about tonight, it’s about the whole league. I’m one of those guys that have really put a lot of pressure on people that look at those kind of things and say, listen, it’s OK to take away those hits from behind when they’re warranted. But what about the other guy? Does he not have a responsibility?”
The Hawks obviously disagreed.
“It’s tough to lose Jonny to a hit like that,” Patrick Sharp said. “Seidenberg has a reputation as a clean hockey player, he’s got a lot of respect in the league. But having said that, we don’t like that hit. Maybe need to bear down a little more on the 5-on-3 and make them pay.”
The Hawks didn’t score on the 5-on-3 (their second of the second period), but still managed to push their win streak to eight games, the highest in the league this season.
Boston college alum Ben Smith had a goal and an assist in the first period to lead the Hawks. Klas Dahlbeck scored the first goal of his NHL career, and Patrick Kane added a second-period tally as the Hawks raced out to a 3-0 lead. Reilly Smith’s goal late in the second period made a game of it, and Torey Krug cut it to a one-goal game at 12:17 of the third.
But Scott Darling (32 saves) held on for his third straight win as he makes his play to be the permanent backup once Corey Crawford returns from injury.
“We’re not there yet,” Quenneville said. “We’ll cross that bridge.”
It’s been 536 days since “17 Seconds.” But time hasn’t made the momentous conclusion to the 2013 Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden — Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland suddenly scoring to turn a sure Game 6 loss into a championship — any less visceral.
“Not for us, I don’t think so,” Toews had said before the game, in the same cramped dressing room in which he and his teammates deliriously drank from the Stanley Cup. “I would imagine not for them, either, especially since we kind of snuck out last minute and walked away with a Cup, when they thought they were going to Game 7.”
Toews paused briefly.
“I’ll admit, so did we,” he added.
These aren’t the same Bruins, punchless of late, having lost four of their last five and falling to the fringe of the playoff picture. But the game still had plenty of bite, especially after Toews left the game. Following Krug’s goal, a massive melee broke out after Andrew Shaw drilled Milan Lucic — who set up the goal with a powerful end-to-end rush. And the final minutes were tense as the Bruins pushed for the equalizer, and the Toews-less Hawks held on for their 13th win in their last 15 games.
“We were battling and finding a way to get the job done,” Smith said. “I think that’s kind of what it speaks to — just finding a way to win, and hopefully we can keep that going.”