Who says you have to score in the Stanley Cup final to be the most valuable player in the National Hockey League playoffs?
Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews left the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia as the Conn Smythe winner Wednesday night following his team's 4-3 overtime victory and first Cup championship since 1961.
Toews, who last scored in Game 2 of the Western Conference final against San Jose on May 18 — a span of eight games — finished second in the post-season with 29 points on seven goals and a franchise-best 22 assists in 22 post-season games. Denis Savard posted 20 assists and 29 points for Chicago in 1985.
That was enough to impress the voters for the award — media in attendance for Wednesday's game. The Conn Smythe Trophy recognizes a player's performance throughout the entire playoffs, not just the finals.
"This is as good as it gets. I can't imagine how lucky I've been just to be with a group of guys like this, win or lose. It's been an awesome road and to pull it off like this it's awesome," Toews told Scott Oake of Hockey Night in Canada as they looked at a picture of Toews wearing a Blackhawks jersey at age six.
Only a three-point night by Daniel Briere in the Cup clincher kept Toews from a most impressive hat trick of hardware. The Flyers centre ended the playoffs with 30 points.
"All year everyone was saying 'this is the year.' There was a lot of pressure but we always believed in what we could do as a team and we believe in each other and it's the No. 1 reason why we're here celebrating," Toews told HNIC.
With Chicago's win, Toews also joined the Triple Gold Club with a Stanley Cup plus gold medals at an Olympics (2010 in Vancouver) and a world championship (2007 in Moscow).
He becomes the 24th member of the exclusive club and the seventh Canadian behind Rob Blake, Joe Sakic, Brendan Shanahan, Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger and Eric Staal. Staal joined this year when he won Olympic gold.
Captain Serious dominates
On Wednesday, the Winnipeg native assisted on Dustin Byfuglien's first-period power-play goal and finished with five shots — tied with Marian Hossa and Brent Seabrook for the team lead — a minus-5 rating, three blocked shots and led all Blackhawks forwards with 23 minutes 21 seconds of ice time.
Toews, nicknamed Captain Serious, collected three assists versus the Flyers and led the NHL with five power-play goals in the post-season. The six-foot-two, 210-pound centre's three game-winners were second only to Dustin Byfuglien on the Blackhawks.
Shadowed by hulking Flyers defenceman Chris Pronger for much of the best-of-seven series, Toews was forced to dominate in other areas.
In Game 6, he won 16 of 25 faceoffs (64 per cent), played a strong two-way game and showed great leadership.
"We still have to check the birth certificate and make sure he's only 21 or 22, whatever he is," forward Patrick Sharp said Tuesday of his 22-year-old teammate. "From day one he entered the league [in 2007] he hasn't changed until now, on or off the ice. Maybe he has lightened up a little bit now.
"It's been great to see him over the years … he's a great leader."
Toews was a key cog in the Blackhawks' drive to back-to-back appearances in the Western Conference final. After posting 25 goals and 68 points during the regular season, when Chicago won the Central Division and earned the No. 2 seed in the West, Toews carried the Blackhawks further than they had been in nearly 50 years.
He had one goal and five assists in the four-game sweep of top-seeded San Jose in the conference finals and carried a 13-game point streak into the championship round — a run that produced seven goals and 18 assists.
"There's so many great things about winning a Stanley Cup," Toews said. "This is it. This is the best feeling you can ever get. I just can't believe it's happened."
In February, Toews and the rest of Team Canada defeated the United States 3-2 in the gold-medal game at Vancouver. He scored the opening goal in the championship contest and ended the tournament with a team-leading eight points in seven games.
Chicago teammates Duncan Keith and Seabrook joined Toews on the Canadian squad.