The three finalists for the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player will be announced today and it would be shocking if Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews wasn't one of them.
"I'm honored that you guys would even say that," Toews said Thursday after the Hawks eliminated the Wild with a 5-1 victory. "I think there's another guy across the room there (Patrick Kane) that deserves it just as much, probably more.
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"To have two guys in the talks like that, it always shows you have a great supporting cast. It's an honor, but you don't get to that point unless your team has success like we did this year."
It's possible Toews won't get a Hart nod considering he wasn't one of the three finalists announced Thursday for the Ted Lindsay award, which goes to the NHL's most outstanding player as voted on by fellow NHL Players Association members.
Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, Washington's Alex Ovechkin and Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis were the three finalists for the Ted Lindsay award.
Members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association vote on the Hart Trophy.
Kane said he voted for Toews.
"He's had a great season," Kane said. "You look at every part of his game and he's a big player, especially for our team. He's a guy you can count on night in and night out to bring pretty much the same effort. Whether he's scoring or not he's pretty much the same player. He's been a huge part of our team this year. He's had a great year."
Kane was surprised that Toews wasn't one of the Ted Lindsay finalists.
"It seems like a lot of guy from the east got votes," Kane said. "I know it's a little more high scoring over there.
"I think it's pretty obvious who I voted for. I voted for Johnny."
Looking way ahead:
While the Hawks won't have anywhere near the salary cap problems they did after winning the Stanley Cup in 2010, there will be some difficult personnel decisions for general manager Stan Bowman to make with the cap dropping from $70.2 million to $64.3 million.
One player who has to get paid is defenseman Nick Leddy, who will be a restricted free agent along with Marcus Kruger and Drew LeBlanc.
Bryan Bickell, Viktor Stalberg, Ray Emery, Michal Rozsival, Michal Handzus and Jamal Mayers all will be unrestricted free agents.
Bickell is having a strong playoff, which helps his case.
"It's good for me, but I'm just doing whatever it takes to help this team win," Bickell said. "I hope I can stay here a long time, but for right now I just have to concentrate on game by game, shift by shift and do what the coach wants."
Shot blocking 101:
The emphasis on shot blocking in the NHL has never been higher. The Hawks blocked 26 shots in Game 4 at Minnesota, which was a season's worth of blocks when Hawks coach Joel Quenneville played defense.
"Guys are willing to sacrifice their body," Quenneville said. "You're in the lane of shots and you're sacrificing at the top or down low. You've got to have the right guys that are willing to do it.
There's also "a specialty" to it, Quenneville said, when it comes to timing it just right so you can get close without sustaining a significant injury.
Josh Harding was Minnesota coach Mike Yeo's choice to start Game 5 despite his apparent left leg injury suffered early in Game 4.
"We don't know how he feels, but you have to trust him," Yeo said. "He says that he is good to go, and there was absolutely no doubt about it, so that's what we were looking for."
The Wild's goaltending situation has taken some of the luster off the series.
"If you would have told us through four games that Jonathan Toews wouldn't have a point, we probably would have signed up for that pretty quickly," Yeo said.