Jonathan Toews can break a franchise record 11-game playoff point scoring streak with a scoring summary appearance on Friday night, which is when his Chicago Blackhawks will square off against the San Jose Sharks in the third game of the Western Conference Finals.
But the Chicago Tribune notes there is no glamour in it. He grinds in the corners, wins draws and happily ventures into thickets of sticks and limbs near the net.
No one anywhere is working harder than the captain. And no one has earned a bigger payoff to date.
“I don’t think I’ve changed that much from the regular season,” Toews said. “Obviously, you raise your play at both ends of the rink. You try to play the right way. When you feel really confident, things click, pucks will go in. That’s the way it is right now.
“You stick with what works and you work hard for that success. Haven’t taken shortcuts. Haven’t changed my game. So hopefully I’ll keep scoring goals and contributing that way because it’s a lot of fun when it’s working that way.”
Toews’ fantasy value has risen incrementally in each of his three seasons in the NHL since being taken third overall in 2006, but his game – and his results – have truly gone to a new level this spring and poolies are hoping that’ll translate with even better regular season stats in ’10-11.
He has 191 points through his first 222 starts and while those are quite good numbers for any forward in his first three campaigns, the totals are still short of putting him into real fantasy stud territory. “Superstar” and “elite” are terms that are grossly overused when referencing athletic performers, but Toews need to hit point-per-game status annually to really bring his fantasy worth in line with his on-ice value to this team.
Which he will. It’s only a matter of time and the past month has hopefully been an indicator that he’s ready to take that next step.
Patrick Kane, who has 18 points of his own in this playoff run, jumped to the next level this season. After posting 72 and 70 points in his first two campaigns, he reached the 88-point plateau in ’09-10 and the first overall pick from 2007 should continue to be an excellent offensive threat each and every year. He knows the importance of Toews too.
“We seem to be having a lot of success, contributions from everyone,” Kane told The Tribune. “But I think it starts with him.”
He’s certainly not the only one to notice.
“He’s a guy who really excels in big-game situations,” Hawks winger Troy Brouwer said. “He doesn’t shy away from anything.”
Even his opponents can appreciate what he brings to the table.
“He always has been an elite player, always worked hard,” Sharks defenceman Doug Murray said. “He sets the tone for their team. He plays the game with passion, plays the game the right way. He plays with a lot of determination and courage. The skill combined with that usually ends up being a pretty good thing.”
Toews, predictably, pleads ignorance to the attention and defuses the suggestion he’s doing anything more or anything better.
“Game to game, you try to contribute any way you can, whether it’s killing penalties, scoring goals, winning draws, whatever it is,” Toews told The Trib. “Not everything’s going to go your way every single night, but you have to find a way to keep inching forward and help your team. That has been my focus and the same thing with every other guy in this locker room.”
CARTER WON’T PLAY TONIGHT Jeff Carter was on the ice for the full morning skate today at the Bell Centre, according to The Philadelphia Daily News.
The timetable for his return is still unclear, aside from the fact that he won’t play tonight, but seeing the Flyers’ leading scorer on the ice gave his teammates a boost.
“He’s looking good,” Simon Gagne said. “That’s what I told him. He’s feeling better and better. That’s good news.”
“Jeff is a competitor,” Scott Hartnell said. “It was good to see him out on the ice, shooting pucks and putting them in the back of the net.”
The PDN notes that Ian Laperriere also skated with the Flyers today, wearing a full facial shield for facial protection. There is no update on his return. He also is considered day-to-day, GM Paul Holmgren said.
LARSSON HEADS BACK TO SWEDEN The Detroit Red Wings have been one of the better teams in the NHL for awhile now, so news of a potential organizational shift in their back-up goalie situation tends to carry interest in fantasy leagues.
Jimmy Howard was projected to get somewhere in the area of 30 starts or so in ’09-10 behind Chris Osgood and as such, Howard headed into the season as one of the more valuable second tier goalies to have in fantasy. The youngster emerged into much more than that, obviously, but it reinforces the point that when you throw a Detroit goalie into your starting poolie line-up on any given night you stand a pretty decent chance of coming away with a win. Osgood aside, there’s generally a reason to think you’ll come away with decent peripherals too.
Michigan Live notes that Daniel Larsson couldn’t envision his career advancing much in the Detroit Red Wings’ system, not with Howard having emerged as their starting goaltender and Thomas McCollum pegged as their goalie of the future.
So after two seasons with the Grand Rapids Griffins, the 24-year-old Larsson has signed a two-year contract with HV-71, the reigning champions of the Swedish Elite League.
“They wanted me in the AHL (for) at least another year, but I felt that the two seasons was enough,” Larsson told HockeySverige.se. “NHL is still my ultimate goal. I think this is the best way to get there.”
That remains to be seen, although it was just last week that he seemed to want to return to the team. He told The Detroit Free Press then that his season-ending meeting with management went well.
“It sounds like they still want me in the organization,” Larsson said at the time. “Hopefully they give me a good deal so I’m here next year.”
Or not. The 37-year old Osgood, who had a season to forget but has likely been an invaluable sounding board for Howard, still has a year left on his current contract and will be backing up the Calder nominee next season. That means Larsson would have been a pretty decent bet to back up Howard in ’11-12, although that also buys McCollum another year of seasoning and anything can happen then. Still, given Detroit’s penchant for allowing their prospects to mature it seems more likely Larsson would have been in a position to earn the big club’s back-up role at that point since he’s older and more experienced than McCollum.
ML reports that Larsson told Swedish media that the contract includes an out clause after one year, so he could still theoretically back up Howard for ’11-12 if both sides felt it was a good move at that point. Either way, the Wings seem fine with this development.
“He’ll be in a great league and we will be able to watch his development,” assistant GM Jim Nill told The Free Press. “He may have a chance to be on the Swedish national team down the road.”
Larsson will also apparently earn about four times as much money in the SEL, where he was a winner of Rookie of the Year and Swedish Goalie of the Year honours (with Djurgardens IF ) in ’07-8 before coming to North America. Larsson will replace Stefan Liv in net.
GM Ken Holland told ML that the Red Wings will look to sign a veteran goalie, someone who will provide depth and compete for playing time with McCollum in Grand Rapids. Jordan Pearce also will compete for a job with the Griffins.
McCollum is still well-regarded within the organization and is continually referenced as the goalie of the future for the team, but his rookie season in the AHL drew mixed reviews… albeit on a Griffins team that finished last in conference and tied for third-worst in the league.
“His first year was a struggle at times, but you’re best off to deal with adversity early in your career. It sends a message,” Holland said. “We’re very high on Thomas McCollum, but next year is very important for him. Our philosophy is you earn your ice time. If McCollum struggles, it’s someone else’s job.”
QUOTABLE “That’s obviously exciting,” Tom Gilbert told The Edmonton Sun about his team holding the number one pick in this summer’s entry draft. “You see teams like Chicago or Washington, they get those good players and they just bloomed. We’re looking to go in that direction. I think whatever player you get it’s going to be a positive. You read about them all the time, especially Taylor Hall, you see him scoring those great goals and you can just picture him doing it for the Oilers.”
RIVET’S SURGERY The Buffalo News indicates that defenceman Craig Rivet will have shoulder surgery this week to repair a double labrum tear and the Sabres’ captain was expected to face a four- to six-month recovery process that would force him to miss the start of next season. GM Darcy Regier, though, said he expects Rivet to be ready for training camp in September.
“Right now we think he’ll be ready,” Regier said. “It may pull him back a little bit from being physically involved in training camp for the first week or so, but based on what we’ve gotten back from the doctors he should be ready to go.”
Rivet himself doesn’t carry much fantasy value on the whole, but his presence can be measured in terms of his worth on the ice in front of Ryan Miller.