Each day for the rest of the year, Second City Hockey will countdown the top 10 Blackhawks stories of 2018.
The first half of 2018 unfolded like the previous year-and-a-half for Chicago Blackhawks captain and No. 1 center Jonathan Toews.
The underlying numbers were there. The possession numbers all looked right. But the goals and assists just weren’t showing up. Toews finished the 2017-18 NHL season with career lows in goals (20) and points (52) for 82-game schedules. One of biggest statistics that affected Toews was shot percentage, as his numbers in the last two seasons were well below his career averages. Chicago’s first absence from the Stanley Cup Playoffs in a decade also had to weigh heavily on the mind of the notoriously competitive Toews.
And then the old Toews returned in the second half of 2018.
Through the first 39 games of the 2018-19 season, Toews is producing like he did in the earlier stages of his NHL career, with 16 goals and 16 assists. Those 32 points have him on pace for a 67-point season, which would be the most Toews has scored in one season since 2013-14, when he was 25 years old.
Toews’ offense was especially potent in the first six games of the season, when he scored five goals and added four assists as part of Chicago’s 6-2-2 start to the season. Toews cooled off in November but started heating up again during December with back-to-back 3-point games against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Winnipeg Jets.
Not only are Toews’ numbers back up again, but Toews just looks like a different hockey player this season. There’s a quickness in Toews’ that wasn’t there in the last few seasons, a burst in his stride that’s buying Toews the precious extra inches of space that can give Toews the room he needs to create scoring chances or finish goals of his own.
Toews’ re-emergence kept the Hawks afloat through the first 10 games of the season, before a 3-19 stretch sent Chicago tumbling into the basement of the NHL. Although it may not save them this season, Toews’ return to his old form suggests the Blackhawks No. 1 center could be part of future winning teams at 1901 W. Madison St.