Not that Jonathan Toews needed another reminder of what he represents on a daily basis, but he got one Friday when he was named as one of 10 Chicago Blackhawks, three current and seven former, who made the cut for the 100 Greatest NHL Players presented by Molson Canadian.
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“I don’t really know how to describe it,” Toews said. “I’m honored. I’m flattered. I want to let myself believe it but at the same time there is that part of you that wants to stay humble.”
Toews joined current teammates Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith and former Blackhawks Bobby Hull, Tony Esposito, Denis Savard and Chris Chelios on stage at Microsoft Theater at “The NHL100 presented by GEICO,” where the final 67 players were revealed.
Stan Mikita was also announced as part of the final 67, but he couldn’t be in attendance. Goalie Glenn Hall and forward Max Bentley were named as part of the first 33 on Jan. 1.
“Our Hawks are a pretty special team,” Esposito said.
The 10 players have their names on the Stanley Cup a combined 22 times, including 12 times as Blackhawks. They have won the Conn Smythe Trophy four times, three as Blackhawks, and won 25 major postseason trophies.
Mikita, Hull, Esposito, Hall, Savard, Chelios and Bentley are in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Kane, Toews and Keith are on their way.
“It’s something special for a team with the history that the Blackhawks have,” Toews said. “Being an Original Six franchise in that city, going back as long as they do, having the sweater, there’s just this energy, this history, this kind of richness to it all that I think is special.
“For us to already be midway through our careers and be thrown in the same conversation as guys like Tony O and Bobby Hull and Stan and Denis, it’s crazy. I don’t think even if I’m still playing somewhat close to 10 years from now I would still believe that I should be mentioned at that level.”
What’s funny about that is Savard admitted he can’t believe he belongs on the same list as Toews, Kane and Keith, players he coached before they became three-time Stanley Cup champions and Conn Smythe Trophy winners.
“There was some added meaning to [this game], for our team anyways,” he said. “We hadn’t played since Saturday night, so it’s not always easy to get back for those when you get a break. … We had some energy and tried to wear them down, but obviously it’s a team that works pretty hard. They didn’t go away due to cheap NHL jerseys. Nice for us to find that resiliency and find a way to get a power-play goal at the end.”
Wild forward Erik Haula tied the game 3-3 with 3:03 left in the third period. Minnesota trailed 2-0 1:09 into the second period.
Vinnie Hinostroza skated up the slot and fed Ryan Hartman for a one-timer at 10:54 of the first period to give Chicago a 1-0 lead. Hartman has a goal in three consecutive games, 13 this season.
Nick Schmaltz made it 2-0 1:09 into the second, and Jared Spurgeon made it 2-1 37 seconds later with a wrist shot off the crossbar.
Zach Parise tied the game 2-2 at 7:15. Chicago requested a coach’s challenge for offsides; the review was ruled not conclusive and the goal stood.
“We’re going to give it our best and do everything we can to finish as high as we can,” defenseman Duncan Keith said. “It’s always a different animal come playoff time. We know we have experience but it’s always a different level of play once you get there. We’ll try to finish as high as we can and finishing at the top is our goal.”
“We knew we’d have this break to rest so we wanted to give it a push,” Keith said. “We wanted to see what we could do. We know we’re a good team and we still have things to improve on. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves but this was a good stretch of games and it’s a good feeling.
“We hadn’t beaten Minnesota in a long time. And Winnipeg had our number all year. And we had come in here and lost the last game pretty soundly. There’s meaning in every game but over the course of a long season you try to find those … you shouldn’t have to find ways to motivate yourself with wholesale NHL jerseys but at the same time, it was easy to play against teams we haven’t been very good against.”
The Blackhawks resume their schedule against the Oilers at United Center on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; SN, NHLN-US, WGN, NHL.TV).
They could be forgiven if they wanted to keep playing with the momentum they’ve gained.
Quenneville said the interruption will still be a positive.
“It’s what it is,” Quenneville said. “These guys [the Oilers] came off of it. We’ll see them again when we come out of it. We’ll see. I know our guys have played a lot of hockey and the guys that went to the All-Star Game as well, they didn’t get much of a break.
“Hopefully everybody gets away and comes back refreshed and trying to recapture this feeling we have right now. Whether the reward (of the break) is down the road or immediate, I still think there are benefits for it.”