clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews still waiting for scoring breakthrough

Toews has opened the season with no goals in 15 games, the longest drought of his career.

Jonathan Toews has largely played well but not scored yet this season.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

After the Blackhawks’ third consecutive victory Friday, with the team the happiest it has been in a long time, captain Jonathan Toews wanted to do anything but discuss his own play this season.

After talking enthusiastically and at length about Patrick Kane, Dylan Strome and Marc-Andre Fleury, Toews lost his loquaciousness when he became the topic of conversation.

How does he feel about his individual performance so far?

‘‘Not terrible, but room for improvement, obviously,’’ he said.

What does he want to improve?

‘‘Everything,’’ he said.

Is his scoring drought weighing on him?

‘‘It doesn’t bother me, but I’d like to do something about it one of these days,’’ he said.

Indeed, even with the Hawks seemingly turning a corner a bit as a team, Toews remains stuck on zero goals through 15 games. It’s not only his longest goal drought to start a season, it’s the longest goal drought of his career.

To be fair, Toews — if he was willing to take them — has a number of ready-made excuses and silver linings sitting at his fingertips.

He’s coming off a lost season riddled with fatigue and health issues, so it’s logical he would need time to readjust to the day-to-day NHL rhythm. He has been unlucky not to score, too, having generated plenty of dangerous opportunities. Entering play Saturday, only one forward in the league — Joel Armia of the Canadiens — had more shots on goal without scoring this season than Toews’ 29.

And in many other areas, Toews has been solid (and has seen the results reflect that). His 51.2% even-strength scoring-chance ratio ranks second on the Hawks behind linemate Jujhar Khaira. He’s proving more dominant than ever on faceoffs: His 60.5% winning percentage this season ranks seventh in the NHL and puts him on track for a career high. He scored in the shootout Tuesday and has eight assists.

As usual, however, Toews isn’t satisfied with all that. He demands nothing short of excellence from himself in every category — something interim coach Derek King quickly has learned.

‘‘I didn’t think his performance [Friday] was as bad as he thought it was,’’ King said Saturday. ‘‘Maybe he puts a lot of pressure on himself. He has high standards.’’

Toews did have his worst game of the season in terms of scoring chances, with the Coyotes recording 11 to the Hawks’ four at even strength when he was on the ice. But he did so while playing 22 minutes, his most this season.

Toews and King had a ‘‘good chat’’ on the ice during practice Saturday — the Hawks’ first of three practices during a four-day break before traveling Tuesday to Seattle — to gauge each other’s viewpoints on his recent play.

King met recently ‘‘over a cup of coffee’’ with wing Dominik Kubalik — who just missed on several breakaways Friday as his goal drought reached nine games — to reassure him, as well.

His messages to Toews and Kubalik? Focus on other areas until the goal-scoring returns because it always does.

‘‘A lot of guys, if you’re used to putting points up and you’re not scoring, they get a little frustrated,’’ King said. ‘‘And this is something I learned when I was a player: If you weren’t getting your goals or your assists, you’ve got to play the game without the puck. And [Jonathan] does a great job with that. He plays both ends of the ice. He’s [on the] penalty kill and power play.

‘‘He’s doing a good job. Does it show on the scoresheet every night? No. But if you sat and watched breakdowns and videos for him, he’s doing all those little things we ask all our players to do, and he’s doing them to a ‘T.’ ’’