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updated: 3/1/2014 11:48 PM

Once again, Toews upstages Crosby

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  • Fireworks go off after the national anthem during the NHL Stadium Series between the Blackhawks and the Penguins Saturday at Soldier Field.

      Fireworks go off after the national anthem during the NHL Stadium Series between the Blackhawks and the Penguins Saturday at Soldier Field.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Snow covers fans during the NHL Stadium Series between the Blackhawks and the Penguins Saturday at Soldier Field.

       Snow covers fans during the NHL Stadium Series between the Blackhawks and the Penguins Saturday at Soldier Field.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith high sticks Pittsburgh Penguins center Brian Gibbons in the second period during Saturday's Coors Light Stadium Series game at Soldier Field between the Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins.

       Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith high sticks Pittsburgh Penguins center Brian Gibbons in the second period during Saturday's Coors Light Stadium Series game at Soldier Field between the Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 
 

Winter it most certainly was.

Classic it was not.

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Amid blizzard conditions, the NHL Stadium Series probably looked beautiful on TV Saturday night when the Blackhawks hosted the Penguins, but it was anything other than cute for the players trying to secure a pair of important points.

And while they were still the best field conditions in the history of Soldier Field, the ice made for some ugly and often comical play as the Hawks defeated the Penguins 5-1, before 62,921 at a frigid and snow-covered football stadium.

"There's lots of this game I'll remember," said Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma. "You like the scene. Yesterday was great in the elements. Fun to be outside in this stadium.

"Today, it's a serious game, a 2-point game in the NHL playing the best team in the league. The picture and the moments are excellent. The outcome and how we played, I'll have to erase that from the snapshot."

In Pittsburgh's defense, there was just too much Jonathan Toews for the Penguins, who have the man generally considered to be the best player in hockey. But Toews outplayed Sidney Crosby in Russia and he did it again Saturday evening on national TV, albeit on a much smaller stage and in a much larger venue.

"He's our captain. He's our leader," said the Hawks' Duncan Keith, himself a candidate for some major hardware this summer. "He plays great at both ends of the ice and we expect that from him.

"He's committed to team first and winning the game. He sacrifices his offensive game for the better of the team. He's special that way."

With the heaviest snow falling in the first period, creating drifts as high as the puck itself, both teams were focused more on getting the puck out of their own end than trying to create scoring opportunities, but late in the first Toews, from behind the net, found Patrick Sharp on the right circle and he fired it off the left post and past Marc-Andre Fleury for a 1-0 Hawks lead.

"The way the conditions were," Sharp said, "I honestly thought that would be all the scoring."

The snow let up for a few minutes between periods and became heavy again five minutes into the second period, but that didn't stop Toews, who looked like Packers WR Randall Cobb running right past Chris Conte as he undressed Brooks Orpik and slid the puck through Fleury for a 2-0 Hawks lead at 10:47 of the second.

"He's a heck of a player," Orpik said. "He works hard on every shift and you have to know where he is at all times or he'll pick your pocket."

While Crosby went without a point and was a minus-2, Toews (plus-3) finished with 2 goals and an assist and made so many great defensive plays that NHL media around the league had to be wondering why they don't seriously consider Toews for MVP every season, perhaps finally understanding that he's the best two-way player in the game.

"We were just playing smart in our own end like we always do," Toews said. "But it felt like a game of shinny out there. We had a lot of fun."

Toews showed an uncharacteristic amount of emotion Saturday, smiling, laughing and jumping into the bench after his first goal, leading the media to wonder if he was trying to lose his moniker as "Captain Serious."

Said Toews: "I've been trying to lose that one for awhile."

That's not going to happen because Toews is quite serious about his craft, even on a night when he had 3 points in a blowout while seemingly having the time of his life.

With the pressure of the Olympics in the past, and the pressure of defending the Cup in the near future, Toews bathed entirely in the present, reliving his youth and reviving his unabashed love of the game.

He was not alone. The winners talked of playing without structure, of systems thrown to the fierce winds. For a solitary night, they were just kids again, thoroughly enjoying a hockey game.

No one can begrudge them that.

brozner@dailyherald.com

•Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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