Toews earns raves

By STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency


Canada's Jonathan Toews beats American goaltender Ryan Miller to open the scoring during the gold-medal men's hockey game at the Vancouver Olympics Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. (DANIEL MALLARD/QMI AGENCY)

VANCOUVER — The Next One was the hero for Canada on Sunday night, but The Next One After That turned out to be the best forward in the Olympic tournament.

Sidney Crosby had long been anointed The Next One, and the 22-year-old’s legend grew some more with his overtime goal to give Canada a 3-2 win over the United States for the gold medal.

But it was 21-year-old Jonathan Toews who created an enormous buzz at these Games.

The young Chicago Blackhawks captain scored Canada’s first goal on Sunday and there was hardly a shift in the tournament when he didn’t do something solid on offence or defence.

Toews finished the Olympics with a goal and seven assists in eight games and was a team-best plus nine. He was named a tournament all-star and the best forward at the Games.

His line, which included Rick Nash and Mike Richards, was easily the best unit on either team in Sunday’s games — a line that Canadian head coach Mike Babcock put together in the qualifying round when Team Canada was still finding its legs.

“The Americans gave us the opportunity to play another game against the Germans, and we were able to sort out a lot of stuff during that game, and that was one of them,” said Babcock, in reference to a preliminary loss to the U.S. “(Toews and Nash) with Richards was a dominate line for us.

“They can play against anybody, but also create offence, and they were great today.”

Even though he is barely old enough to drink in some states, Toews has pretty well accomplished everything there is to accomplish in international hockey.

He was won gold medals for Canada at both the world (2007) and world junior (2006, 2007) championships, and was the first Canadian player ever to win both in the same season.

Toews said Sunday that while those triumphs were great, nothing compares to the feeling of winning an Olympic gold medal on home soil.

“Not even close. There’s nothing that can compare to this,” he said. “It’s unbelievable. It doesn’t get better than this. I can’t imagine anything comparing to an experience like this in a long time. This is something that comes once in a lifetime.”

It was also an excellent tournament for the Blackhawks, with four young players in Sunday’s final. Three for Canada — Toews along with defencemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — and forward Patrick Kane for the U.S.

“Hopefully we will be in some big games together, Stanley Cup playoffs and stuff like that,” Toews said. “But that’s not my focus right now. I’m just going to enjoy this.”

Canadian captain Scott Niedermayer said the young guns on Team Canada — Toews, Crosby, Seabrook, Corey Perry — made the difference in the tournament.

“There were a lot of young guys all over the place. Our guys did play really well and stepped up in pressure situations. They were very solid,” Niedermayer said. “They all played important roles. Toews was out there doing a great job defensively and scoring some big goals and Keith and Seabrook were big back there (on defence).

“That’s why we’re here, a lot of young guys played extremely well for us.”

Really, there’s nothing that Toews can’t seem to do on the ice. Or off.

Much to the delight of the Quebecois media here — and no doubt earning the eternal gratitude of the Canadian Olympic Committee — Toews can even speak French, thanks to the fact that his mom, Andree, is French-Canadian.

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

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