DETROIT - Maybe it was the frustration of not having yet scored nine games into these NHL playoffs.
Perhaps it was his former Olympic coach, Mike Babcock knowing precisely what buttons to push.
Whatever the case, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, the ultimate hockey battler, came close to being unglued in the second period of Thursday night's 2-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings in Game 4 of their Western Conference semifinal.
And suddenly (stunningly?) the early Stanley Cup favourites are now on the ropes with their captain seemingly powerless to stop it.
As tough as he is to play against, Toews has also carved out a reputation for being poised, particularly when pressure is at its highest. Meticulously being hounded by the Wings, with each failed shift and each challenge denied for Toews, it is Detroit that is playing with the calm you might have expected from the 'Hawks.
Give Wings coach Mike Babcock credit for some of it, too. He leaned on Toews at the Vancouver Olympics because he knew what the Winnipeg native was capable of doing. Here, he's instructed his team to do whatever it takes to get under the skin of the opposition's emotional leader.
And under that skin the Wings went, particularly in the second period when Toews collected a hat trick of minor penalties, the second of which led to Jakub Kindl's power-play goal and game-winner.
In 48 regular-season games, Toews was whistled for just 11 minor penalties. In 5:39 of the second period, he took three.
"I'm not going to say anything about the officiating," Toews said before doing just that. "I disagree with the calls. It's in the heat of the moment. They see what they see."
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