The Detroit Red Wings kept Toews' production to a minimum throughout the first three games of their Western Conference semifinal series, but they discovered Thursday there's one definitive way to shut Toews down completely -- get him to the penalty box.
"We'd like to keep him in the box," Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said. "He's not as good for them in the box."
For the first time in Toews' career, he was called for three unrelated penalties and spent six minutes in the box during the Blackhawks' 2-0 loss to the Red Wings in Game 4 at Joe Louis Arena. All three of his penalties came in the second period. He was called for hooking at 5:20 of the period, high sticking at 8:04 and high sticking at 10:54.
Toews had questioned the officiating earlier in the series, but he held his opinion back -- for the most part -- following Thursday's game. Toews also didn't blame his penalties on being frustrated.
"I'm not going to say anything about the officiating," Toews said. "Obviously, I disagree with the calls, but it's in the heat of the moment. They see what they see. I've got to be careful of my stick. That doesn't help my team, but I still think we played hard through it, found a way to stay in the game, killed off two big penalties.
"Emotions run high in some of these games. My stick got loose there. I was playing hard. Sometimes that happens. Frustrating I had to go three times in a game."
The Blackhawks were able to hold the Red Wings off the board for two of Toews' penalties, but one was all the Red Wings needed to capitalize on. With one second remaining on Toews' second penalty, Red Wings defenseman Jakub Kindl beat Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford from the left circle and gave his team a 1-0 lead at 10:03 of the second period.
Aside from the penalties, Toews also went goal-less again. He has yet to score in nine playoff games this season after matching Patrick Kane with a team-high 23 regular-season goals. Toews had three shots on goal on Thursday.
Toews isn't sure what else he or his teammates can do to finally break through offensively. They've scored just two goals in their last three playoff games.
"We're getting shots," Toews said. ‘We're getting chances. Hit a bunch of posts again tonight. They're just not going in. We got to keep working hard. We're not making any excuses for ourselves. We know we're playing good hockey. We're playing hard for each other. We're not leaving anything out there. Nothing to be said about that. We just need to find a way to score. It's simple as that."
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville certainly wasn't going to blame Toews for Thursday's loss either. Quenneville found plenty to be pleased with from Toews' 19:23 of ice time on Thursday.
"I think [Toews] does a lot of things," Quenneville said. "Whether it's production on how you measure his effort, puck possession, how he plays in his own end, how he plays without the puck, how he kills penalties, how he's in the faceoff circle, there's a lot of elements to his game that helps our team game. We don't measure just his contributions offensively. Right now, it's across the board [for our struggles.]"