Three goals in seven games isn’t exactly an onslaught for Jonathan Toews — that’s a full-season pace for 35 goals, which isn’t that much off his career 82-game average of 31.9 coming into this season.
But in the context of the biggest scoring slump of his 10-year career, it’s a sign of hope for Toews, who has seven goals this season after scoring the opening goal of a 2-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night at the United Center.
At 28, it’s unlikely Toews has lost his touch. But even for him — maybe especially for him — the mental part of the game is critical. There have been times in previous seasons when he scores like a sniper. But for now, as he tries to “rise above the frustration,” he’ll take whatever he can as fuel for a goal-scoring resurgence.
“I feel like I’ve had a lot of good games with a lot of puck possession, whether I’m with Hartsy [Ryan Hartman] or Vinnie [Hinostroza] or Hoss or whoever,” Toews said. “I’m trying to build that confidence whether pucks go in or not. Usually your confidence build when you start getting lucky and things start going in for you. Then you start loosening up and getting that creativity back in your game.
“Just one way or another trying to rise above the frustration or just lack of results and go play with the puck and keep it, work with it and eventually things go in for you. It’s nice to see a little offense lately and be a part of it with my linemates. It’s something I definitely want to continue.”
Marian Hossa’s return to the ice Thursday night after missing five games with an upper-body injuy can only help Toews. A concerted effort by the Toews-Hossa-Hinostroza line netted Toews his goal against the Hurricanes. Hinostroza passed across the slot to Hossa, who appeared to have a clear shot on goal but instead passed back across the slot to Toews in front of the net for an easy goal. Just what Toews needed.
“He adds so much depth to our lineup,” Toews said of Hossa. He’s just one of those guys that can pick up where he left off. He’s only going to get better, too.”
Hossa’s resurgence this season is something Toews can cling to. Hossa scored a career-low 13 goals in 64 games last season with a career-low 6.8 shooting percentage. He has 16 goals already this season in 34 games and his shooting percetage is 19.5 — almost at his career-best of 19.7 in 2002-03, when he was 24 years old.
If Hossa can do that at 37 — he’ll turn 38 on Thursday — it stands to reason that Toews can do it at 28.
Actually, considering his age, Toews’ diminished shooting percentage this season is alarming. He’s scoring on 7.7 percent of his shots —nearly half his 15.4 shooting percentage last season. That’s an unusual drop for a world-class player in his prime.
He acknowledged feeling a little snakebit. “I guess so,” Toews said somewhat sheepishly. “I can’t say things are clicking my way. But you just have to find a solution when things aren’t working for your game — just try and improve all the little details, and then what are you going to do? You keep putting pucks on net. You keep creating. Odds are you’re going to get some lucky ones.”
Toews has been an impressively consistent goal-scorer in his career — especially for a player who never has ranked in the top-10 in goals for a full NHL season. In his first eight seasons, Toews had just nine goal-less streaks of more than five games. But he’s had six in the last season-and-a-half. That’s not including the playoffs, when the Hawks’ captain went scoreless against the Blues — the first time in his nine-year NHL career that Toews has failed to score in a postseason series the Hawks lost.
“Scoring goals — it’s one of those things you can’t force,” Toews said. “You can have games where you don’t play so well and you can get a couple of lucky bounces. A couple of games you play great and have the puck all night and absolutely nothing goes in.
“It’s one of those funny things. When they come from me, they usually come in bunches. So hopefully I can get over the hump and whether I’m scoring or helping out Hoss or Vinnie, I’m just trying to be better and produce more for our team.”