Toews prefers to tune out praise, focus on game

CHICAGO -- John Madden has played with or against just about every type of player throughout his decade-long NHL career. However, until he got to Chicago this season, Madden never was around anyone quite like Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews.

"If you were to make a mold of the perfect hockey player in terms of how you want him to prepare and how you want him to do things, Johnny is your guy," Madden told Thursday. "From everything he puts in his body to how he takes care of himself to how much sleep he's getting to finely tuning his sticks, gloves and his skates -- he's all about winning and playing the best he can possibly play."

Toews has been the best and most consistent player in the NHL during these Stanley Cup Playoffs. He leads in scoring with 23 points, and if you were to ask hockey writers from across North America who leads the race for the Conn Smythe Trophy as postseason MVP, Toews likely would be the unanimous answer.

It's a lot for the humble 21-year-old from Winnipeg, who would prefer it if everyone just stopped reminding him of how great he's been.

"You guys are going to overwhelm me with all of this stuff," Toews said. "I'm trying not to think about it."

He can try to do that when he's out of the media's glare. Right now there isn't a better hockey story developing out west than Toews' quest for the Cup.

"If he keeps playing this well I'll answer all the questions you guys want to ask," Patrick Kane said. "At playoff time, you always see the best performers show up. He's one of those players."

Toews scored the winning goal in Game 2 against the Sharks and assisted on Dustin Byfuglien's winner in Game 1. He also added an assist on Byfuglien's goal in Game 2, and that point extended his scoring streak to 11 games, tying him with Stan Mikita for a franchise playoff record.

Yes, being linked to Mikita for any kind of record blows Toews' mind.

"It's another one of those things that is a cool thing to think about," he said -- as he always does -- humbly. "You don't get to this point without working hard and playing the right way, playing the team game. I've been lucky that I've been on a streak, which is nice. You can work hard, play well and do so many things right, but when you don't see pucks go in it does hurt your confidence a bit. I have to say things have been working pretty well."

That's about as conceited as Toews gets. Forget about trying to get him talking about what it's like to be the center of attention in the Western Conference Final.

"There are a lot of people in here that are busy not talking to me," Toews said with a smile. "We have some guys in here that will always have some pressure to perform and it doesn't matter. We're a team and we move forward as a team. I can't say much more."

But nobody else on the Blackhawks -- save for a slight movement on behalf of goalie Antti Niemi -- is hearing his name associated with the Conn Smythe Trophy. Toews admits that's pretty cool, but …

"Down the road it would be something you could enjoy and say it would be great to have on your resume if you win a Stanley Cup," he said. "Right now, as individuals in here, we all want to be a part of something special and we're slowly working toward that. The individual stuff is nice and cool, but I'm not adding any pressure on myself just because some people are saying that right now."

As modest as he is, Toews isn't exactly overwhelmed by his status right now. He says his Olympic experience has had a great influence on how he's playing and handling himself in these playoffs.

Many figured Steve Yzerman selected Toews to be Canada's 12th or 13th forward, a checker who would be lucky to play 10 minutes. By the end of the two weeks, he had gold around his neck and was voted the best forward of the tournament.

"You understand the pressure and the excitement and what it would feel like to win a gold medal and you fight those emotions as you go along because you're just trying to do your job and treat it as another hockey game," Toews said. "It's kind of the same way now. You want to win so badly and every night you go to sleep thinking about the end result, which seems so far away still. You just have to keep focusing on what matters, and that's how we work."

Poll the Hawks and they'll all tell you that no one works harder or smarter than their captain.

"He's an elite player in the game, one of the best," Adam Burish said. "If he wasn't getting this kind of attention before, he sure did deserve it. The way he's playing on the ice and leading this group, it's outstanding."

Toews' compete level is what impresses Madden most.

"He doesn't take a shift off," he said. "And when you mix the talents that he has with that competitiveness and the will to not be satisfied, you're going to get one competitive guy and one great hockey player. You're not going to find a better bigger-game player."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl