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updated: 4/1/2011 6:06 AM

Toews always leading the way for Hawks

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Congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks for shaking off their extended hangover in time to join the Western Conference playoff chase.

It's about time.

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It may come as a shock to many of the passengers on this trip -- some of them seriously well compensated -- that the season actually began in October.

Not surprisingly, Jonathan Toews showed up on time to answer the bell with the rest of the league and hasn't let up a bit from his dream season.

Toews was named the NHL's No. 1 star for February after topping the league with 21 points while posting a plus-13, leading the Hawks to an 8-3-2 month.

The Hawks also are 4-0 since Toews aired out his teammates following a first period in St. Louis last week that saw them fall behind the Blues by a pair. They came back to win 5-3 and have outscored the opposition 16-6 since Toews called out his team.

The 22-year-old captain is wise beyond his years, and his effort belies that of someone so young. He simply never gives up on a play or a shift, and never quits on his team, regardless of the score.

In another superb season, Toews is now 11th in the NHL in points (61), 10th in assists (38), and 19th in plus-minus (+20).

More interesting is that he's second in the NHL in road plus-minus (+17) and sixth in road points (33), while second overall in takeaways (76) to the Sharks' Joe Thornton (89). But Thornton has 70 giveaways (fifth worst in the NHL) to Toews' 20.

Among players who have taken at least 30 percent of his team's faceoffs, Toews (35 percent) leads that category winning 58 percent of his draws.

He should be the favorite this season to win the Selke for best defensive forward after finishing fourth last year behind Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk -- who has won three straight -- Vancouver's Ryan Kesler and Pittsburgh's Jordan Staal.

Kesler ought to be Toews' most serious competition with Datsyuk missing nearly a quarter of the season to injuries.

And if the Hawks continue to climb in the Western Conference standings and Toews stays hot, maybe he'll even find his way into the MVP conversation.

Of course, none of those awards mean much to him. Just as he brushed past the Conn Smythe last June to get to the real prize, he thinks of only one trophy during this or any other time of year.

The Stanley Cup is what motivates him to treat every shift as if it were his last, and with a few more victories maybe his teammates will begin to find the hunger that helped them win it all a year ago.

Rest assured, Toews has never lost his appetite.

Playoff race

The guess here after the Hawks beat Minnesota at home two weeks ago was that they needed to play at least five games over .500 the rest of the way to get in, and since then they're 5-1.

But you have to wonder if a game over break-even from here on in will be good enough.

Best stat

Since Joel Quenneville shook up the defensive pairings, the Hawks are 7-1-2.

Congrats

To the White Sox' Eddie Einhorn, for his election to the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.

Einhorn was the first to nationally syndicate TV and radio coverage of regular-season and NCAA Tourney games and is perhaps most famous in NCAA lore for marketing the 1968 Houston-UCLA game in the Astrodome that featured Elvin Hayes and Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).

In the first nationally televised regular-season game and in front of a record 52,693 fans, Houston beat UCLA 71-69 to snap the Bruins' 47-game winning streak in what was billed as the "Game of the Century."

Birds battered

On the heels of Adam Wainwright's elbow surgery, St. Louis ace Chris Carpenter pulled a hamstring in his spring debut. At this rate, the Cubs are a Reds-Brewers brawl away from clinching the division in March.

Off the bench

CBS' Craig Ferguson: "They brought Billy Crystal out for three minutes in the middle of the Oscars. That's like bringing Michael Jordan out in the middle of a kids' basketball game."

Best headline

Sportspickle.com: "Baseball adds Charlie Sheen to list of banned substances."

And finally …

S.F. Chronicle's Scott Ostler: "Tiger Woods spit on a green in a tournament in Dubai and TV commentator Ewan Murray said, 'It does not get much lower than that.' Apparently Murray spent the last year-and-a-half marooned on a desert island."

brozner@dailyherald.com

•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM.

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