- Jesse Rogers, Chicago Cubs beat reporter
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CHICAGO -- Eventually Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews had to set the record straight. After multiple questions about how much teammate Brent Seabrook inspired his scoring touch, Toews simply wanted people to know it wasn't as dramatic as it sounded.
"Let's set it straight here," Toews said Thursday after returning from Boston where he scored a goal in the Hawks' 6-5 victory in Game 4. "It was not a joke, but he'd be sitting in the lounge or whatever at the hotel, and he just looked at me and I answered it wrong one time because he just asked me, 'What are you thinking about,' and I was like, ‘Nothing, what are you thinking about?' And he looked at me again and I realized what he wanted me to say, and I snapped back and said, 'scoring goals.' There you go. That was all it was."
As it turned out, both Toews and Seabrook scored goals on Wednesday to even the Stanley Cup finals at 2-2 with Game 5 here on Saturday. Maybe, just maybe, Toews has found his scoring touch. The goal was just his second of the playoffs and came off a simple tip-in of a Michal Rozsival shot, but it meant a lot.
"'Finally,'" Toews recalled feeling. "Just wanted a lucky one, and that was it. I think it doesn't make much sense when you say that, a puck going off your stick from the point, and you see it going in, can liberate you as a player and help you play the rest of the game with less pressure. And just go out there and make plays and let things happen instead of trying to force every single little thing, but it does."
If that's the case then several players must have that liberating feeling. Five of the six goal scorers on Wednesday earned their first tallies of the series. But as always it starts with the captain. If he gets going a lot of good will come of it. Some credit should go to Seabrook, who's been in his ear.
"To be completely honest, I was sick and tired of hearing everybody talk about everything that Johnny is doing right," Seabrook said. "He's a great player. He's one of the best in the league, and I just told him that he's got to stop thinking about that, too."
In other words, the little things are great but Toews also has the talent to put the puck in the net.
"It wasn't about the little things that he does," Seabrook said. "It wasn't about his leadership that he brings. I just thought that maybe he needed to start thinking about scoring goals."
In Toews' mind that didn't mean cherry-picking or leaving his defensive assignments for offensive gain, it simply meant doing things toward the net more often.
"It just comes down to having that killer instinct when you're around the net, to take the puck there or hang onto it that extra second instead of just making a safe play and cycling it behind their net," Toews said. "Where half the time, if you're on that side of the rink, (Zdeno) Chara is going to get his stick on it and next thing you know, you might be back-checking against their forward.
"It's just something, that having that confidence that, 'Hey, you can go out there, you've got the puck, don't be afraid, take a chance and throw it on net or take it to the net.'"
Chara came up a lot on Thursday as the Hawks finally went at him instead of avoiding him. He was on the ice for five goals against. But it started with that aggressive attitude, partly inspired by Seabrook. Even his coach took notice.
"I think Seabrook, since I've been here, he's one of the guys that doesn't wear a letter but he's definitely a big part of our leadership group," Joel Quennveville said. "Even at a young age here, five years going back, he was probably the one voice that you hear a lot in the locker room and probably the most on the bench or around even practice or game time or preparing between periods. I think he's the one guy that usually -- you'll hear him the most."
Fortunately for the Hawks, Toews was listening.
8hScott Burnside and Craig Custance
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