SOCHI, Russia – If anyone could relate to T.J. Oshie, it was Jonathan Toews.
Oshie became an American hero Saturday when he went 4-for-6 in the shootout, lifting the United States to a 3-2 victory over Russia in the prelims of the Sochi Olympics. Toews did something similar in 2007. He went 3-for-3 in the shootout as Canada beat Team USA, 2-1, in the semis of the World Junior Championship.
“Yeah, he put on a show,” Toews said. “That was pretty cool to watch him. Not only scoring four out of six – and probably could have gone six for six had he gotten a bounce on the two that he missed – but just watching him with a smile on his face and how relaxed he looked.
“I think he was almost 100-percent sure every time that he was going to score. Pretty amazing with that pressure to send that same guy out six times. Even if the guy’s automatic, it takes a lot of confidence from the coaches to put a guy like that over the boards that many times. Great kid and pretty cool moment in his career, I’m sure.”
Toews spent part of Saturday watching curling with some of his Canadian teammates. They went back to the Olympic Village to relax and watch the USA-Russia game in the lounge in their building. Toews saw his Chicago Blackhawks teammate Patrick Kane fail to score on a breakaway in overtime – “I’m sure he was kicking himself there,” he said – and enjoyed the epic eight-round shootout.
He said he kind of expected that from those teams – and kind of expects it for Canada in the coming days.
“I think for us to watch that, we know we might have to go through a game like that pretty soon, so we’ve got to be ready for that challenge, ready for that excitement,” Toews said. “You can’t win a gold medal without going through a few nail-biters like that, so we’ve got to be ready for it. That’s what it’s all about.”
In 2007, Toews, then 18, scored to give Canada a 2-1 lead in the shootout. But after the first three rounds, it was tied. Sudden death. Coaches have the option of choosing anyone from their bench at that point.
Toews scored; the Americans responded. Two more players failed to score, so Canada coach Craig Hartsburg went to Toews one more time. Toews scored again, and after Canada goalie Carey Price made the final save, that proved to be the difference.
Could Toews pull an Oshie in Sochi?
“It’s scary to think about, but who knows?” Toews said. “I’ll be ready for whatever.”
Toews, now 25, has seven shootout goals this season – tied with Oshie and Logan Couture for first in the NHL. He has 34 in his career, tied for fourth among active NHL skaters.
“I know I’ve had a lot of confidence in the shootouts this year and in the past as well, so if I’m called upon you just got to go down there thinking, ‘Find any way you can to score,’ ” Toews said. “If we happen to find ourselves in that situation, I think a lot of guys would be ready for that chance.”
Canada coach Mike Babcock pointed out that he went back to Sidney Crosby in a shootout against Switzerland in the qualification round four years ago in Vancouver. After failing to score in the first three rounds, along with everyone else, Crosby scored in the fourth. The Canadians eked out a 3-2 victory and went on to win gold.
What if Toews gets multiple opportunities? How deep is his bag of tricks?
“I can’t comment on that now,” Toews said with a smile. “You’ll have to wait and find out, I guess.”