The big things, the little things... Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews was doing them all in the Hawks' 3-1 series upset of the Western Conference's No. 5 seeded Oilers in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
Toews, 32, finished the best-of-five qualifying round series with seven points (four goals, three assists) a plus/minus rating of plus-2, a faceoff percentage of 55.34 and was on the ice for five goals for and two against in 5-on-5 play vs. Edmonton.
His game-winning goal with 1:16 remaining in Game 3 to make it 4-3, which deflected off his shin pad from a Connor Murphy shot, tied Toews with Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull and Patrick Kane for most postseason game winners (11) in Hawks' history.
"Technically we just made the playoffs now, so the real fun begins," Toews said after Friday's Game 4. "We worked pretty hard in this series to beat a good team and we're gonna have to dig deep to keep getting better and better the next one. It's fun, like I said, even though there's no fans in the building. Guys want to win. Nice to get that series win. I think everyone's feeling good."
After Friday's Game 4 win, the Blackhawks improved to 17-5 in elimination games since 2010. In those games, Toews has 29 points with 11 goals and 18 assists. Patrick Kane also has 29 points in those elimination contests with 14 goals and 15 assists.
The stats speak volumes of the captain's start to the postseason, but the way he played to record them say a lot more regarding the level Toews is performing at.
The three-time Stanley Cup champion center parking in front of the Oilers' net was a familiar sight during the series. After more than a decade of taking abuse in front of the crease, Toews is still willing to pay the price for his team.
It wasn't just his two two-goal games, dominating on the dot and a strong defensive game throughout the series that was impressive, it was the determination that led to it.
There was a retro postseason intensity to his game, on display for the Hawks' younger players to observe the kind of edge successful playoff hockey often requires.
There was pulling up the bootstraps, packing the lunch pail and going to work on the boards, battling to get the puck to create chances, like when he won a battle down low to get rookie Dominik Kubalik the puck for the series-clinching goal at 8:30 of the third period in Game 4.
"Jonny's been around a long time and he's got a pretty immaculate track record in the playoffs," Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said after Game 4. "To me, his biggest attribute that he has is his compete level. He wins a 50/50 battle on the winning goal, just finds a way to come up with the puck, and that's the winner. He came up big for us throughout the series in those types of situations. Great player."
It's no wonder the Blackhawks' younger players were so effective in the series. When they see veteran Hawks like their captain, several years their senior, doing the right things with purpose, they have no excuse not to.
"Thought he was great," Hawks goalie Corey Crawford said after Friday's game. "He was obviously one of our best players, not just offensively but he had a big block in the third there when they were pressuring. I mean when a leader's doing that I think that just follows throughout the lineup. Obviously he's won some Cups and knows how to play in these games Not much difference now. He was great."
Led by their captain, the Blackhawks did a lot right in the play-in series. They'll have momentum heading into Round One, albeit against a better team in the Colorado Avalanche or Vegas Golden Knights, but Toews' team has bought in.
If he continues to play at the level he opened the postseason at, anything is possible for him and his Hawks. Stranger things have happened in 2020.
Jonathan Toews ready to be Captain Clutch for Blackhawks' postseason run originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago