Siegel: Toews bolsters winning resume on Olympic stage

Jonas Siegel
2/24/2014 12:01:04 PM
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SOCHI, Russia - Jonathan Toews doesn't know where he'll keep this Olympic gold medal. His mom and dad have the other one from four years ago back home in Winnipeg.

"Maybe I'll hang 'em up together," he says.

Toews has not yet reached the age of 26. He already owns two Stanley Cups and now his second gold on the grand Olympic stage - all in the last four years. He also boasts gold from two World Juniors and another from the 2007 Worlds.

He scored the first goal in Canada's 3-0 triumph over Sweden in Sunday's gold medal match and further cemented himself as one of the defining - if not the defining - winners and crunch-time players of his generation. He was the best player on the biggest stage in Vancouver and remained right up there again this time around in Sochi.
That winning feeling never seems to get old.

"I think every time you get the chance," said Toews, gold medal still around his neck afterward, "there's still that feeling of nerves that you don't want to pass up the chance to win. You want to do it again. You never know how many chances you're going to get so you want to do the best you can to bring it home. I'm just lucky to be part of these teams that want to win as bad as I do."

That burning desire to win is what makes Toews such a special player and leader at a wise-beyond-his-years age of 25. It's why the Chicago Blackhawks pinned him with the captaincy at the tender age of 20, this after just a single season in the NHL. He is both willing and able to do whatever it takes to win. Score a goal. Kill a penalty. Win a faceoff. Shut down the opposition's top offensive force. Toews can and will do it all.

On this day against the Swedes, it was scoring the elusive first goal and eventual game-winner. Toews, who led the forwards with over 19 minutes, hadn't scored before that in these Olympics, but there he was redirecting a terrific pass from Jeff Carter and setting the tone for Canada.

"I know Johnny cares so much about hockey," said Canadian and Blackhawks teammate Duncan Keith, also a winner of two Cups and two Olympic gold medals. "He lives and breathes hockey. That's the way he is as a person. That sort of stuff doesn't surprise me at all."

In the semifinal against the Americans, he was shutting down the previously unstoppable Phil Kessel, keeping the eventual tournament scoring leader (tied with Erik Karlsson) off the board entirely in a tense 1-0 win. In fact, it was the line of Toews, Carter and Patrick Marleau that keyed in on the opposition's best throughout the entire tournament. The trio was a driving force in Canada's dominant defensive effort, one that saw them yield exactly three goals in six games and not one in either the semifinal or final.

"He's a winner," said Alex Pietrangelo, less than two years younger than Toews, but worlds apart in experience. "Resume speaks for itself. Obviously a great leader. Plays the game the right way. Plays the game hard, every practice, every game. Great guy to learn from, great guy to follow."

Toews is so respected around the league for his winning accomplishments that even Sidney Crosby, the game's top player, checked with his Chicago counterpart before accepting the captaincy for Team Canada. He wanted to make sure Toews, a winner of two Cups to just one for Crosby, was okay with it.

For first-time Olympians like Pietrangelo and Matt Duchene, Toews and Crosby were the two to watch here in Sochi, the two to follow on the difficult path to gold, the second in as many Olympics for Canada.

"Him and Sid are the two guys I probably look up most to in the league," said Duchene. "You want to follow in the footsteps of those guys."
Stepping into the lineup for the injured John Tavares in Friday's semifinal against the U.S., Duchene said he looked to Toews and Crosby for leadership. "...they were kind of my calming factors. I looked at them and saw how they were dealing with it and thought 'okay, that's where I want to go as an individual so this is how I have to act and how I have to deal with it'.

"I didn't have any nerves the last two games and that was pretty amazing."

For the second time in as many gold medal games it was Toews and Crosby both scoring for Canada - the latter on a breakaway against Lundqvist - both elevating their play under the most pressure-infused of situations.
Both knew nothing less than gold was good enough, either for the nation or themselves as individuals.

"This is old hat for them this game here," Duchene said with a growing smile. "This probably ranks in the top five biggest games ever [for them], not number one like me by a mile. It's pretty cool. Those are the guys you want to be like as you get older."

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