Blackhawks notebook: Jonathan Toews’ one-day-at-a-time mentality now ‘more by choice’
Toews has been the Hawks’ best forward so far this season, and his production levels reflect that. “The irony is the results are coming because I’m really not worried about that at all,” he said.
ANAHEIM, Calif. — During the Blackhawks’ playoff series of yesteryear, the intensity of the situations forced captain Jonathan Toews to take things one game at a time.
Those runs are history now, but Toews has readopted that mentality — a cliché, yes, but an applicable one in this case — this season. He mentions it on a near-daily basis, and he has taken time to reflect more than he did before on what it truly entails.
‘‘It’s nothing new, but I definitely feel a new ability to sink into what that actually means: to feel [things] out and literally just be where you are,’’ he said. ‘‘Yeah, in those big games in the playoff runs, the pressure puts you there, and you have no choice but to focus on the next play and the next shift. But now it’s definitely a little bit more by choice.’’
The approach seems to be working. Toews unquestionably has been the Hawks’ best forward so far this season.
Visually, he looks more confident, stronger, faster and better-positioned than he has in years. Statistically, he entered the game Saturday against the Ducks tied with Patrick Kane for the team scoring lead with 10 points, well ahead of all his teammates with seven goals and fourth in the NHL with a 62.0% winning percentage on faceoffs.
He said it has been ‘‘really nice’’ to see his hard work rewarded with production this fall, unlike last fall. Toews was still almost a month away from his first goal of the season on this date last year.
‘‘The irony is the results are coming because I’m really not worried about that at all,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m just focused on the process and making plays and not letting my mind get ahead of itself at all.
‘‘When you start getting to nine or 10 games without scoring a goal, you tend to start focusing more energy on things you shouldn’t think about when you’re in that moment where you’re about to get a scoring chance. And if you overthink it, you just take yourself right out of what you should be doing, which is feeling your way through it and trusting that your body knows how to make the play and score a goal in those situations.’’
The Hawks on Friday activated defenseman Ian Mitchell off injured reserve, indicating he has healed fully from his wrist issue.
But Mitchell, 23, subsequently was sent down to Rockford of the American Hockey League, where he will be able to ease back into a playing rhythm and will have to earn his way back to the NHL roster.
He’ll need to do so before time runs out on this make-or-break season for him.
Richardson on top
At the end of a lighthearted optional practice Friday, coach Luke Richardson, as well as the rest of the coaching staff and the nine players participating, took part in a circle passing game dubbed ‘‘king of the hill’’ at center ice.
In the end, Richardson beat all his players and assistants to win the game. His trash talk afterward was priceless.
‘‘[Defenseman Filip] Roos wasn’t happy with his exit, and he wanted to play again,’’ Richardson said. ‘‘I said: ‘There’s only one king. How many kings are there in Sweden? There’s one king. So we’re not playing again.’ They talked me into playing again, but there still only is one king.’’
Richardson also joked that everyone owed him $100. Forward Jujhar Khaira responded by waving a $100 bill in his face in the locker room.