Blackhawks

NHL names Jonathan Toews its 2nd star; is the Blackhawks’ captain back?

After posting a career-low 20 goals and 52 points last season, Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews put the pressure on himself this summer to improve and bounce back from three down seasons.

And so far this season, Toews’ offseason work appears to be paying off.

Toews has had an explosive start to the season, posting six points — the most he’s ever recorded through the first three games. That’s why it’s no surprise that he’s earned himself this week’s second star selection, which the NHL announced Monday. He shared the weekly accolade with Toronto’s Auston Matthews, who was named the first star, and Stars’ Ben Bishop, who was named the third.

Toews, who hadn’t been awarded a star of the week honor by the NHL since Feb. 27, 2017, has seemingly returned to his prime.

Through three games, the three-time Stanley Cup champion has scored five goals, including the overtime game winner on Saturday in St. Louis which completed his fifth career hat trick. Last season, Toews didn’t score his fifth goal until Nov. 15 — or 19 games into the season.

While it’s a small sample size, Toews’ phenomenal performance so far begs the question: Is the captain back?

“However you want to call it, I think his play over three games is pretty amazing as far as his pace, possession time,” coach Joel Quenneville said after the Hawks’ 7-6 overtime loss to the Maple Leafs. “His quickness is noticeable. Has the puck more. He’s around the net. Almost every one of his goals outside of his breakaway [at St. Louis] is him being around the net and we saw that in preseason as well.”