Good afternoon and welcome to today’s edition of The Face-Off Circle. In this feature, one of our Bolts will face off against an opposing player of the team the Lightning face next. We will see how the two match up against each other, their respective teams, and against the rest of the league.
In today’s edition of The Face-Off Circle, we have another match-up of against the reigning Stanley Cup Champs. The Chicago Blackhawks have made their way into town to face the Tampa Bay Lightning for the second time this season, the first game being played on October 5th in Chicago. The Bolts came out of that game with a shootout victory and look to continue that success here at home. In the face-off circle tonight, it’s a captain vs. captain standoff. Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis goes up against the captain for the Blackhawks, Jonathan Toews. PUCK DROP!
Jonathan Toews is one of the best centers that the NHL has seen in a long time. Toews was drafted in the first round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft by Chicago and immediately played in the 2007-08 season for his rookie in which he served as an alternate captain. Had he not missed sixteen games with an injury, Toews could have won the Calder Memorial Trophy (rookie of the year) but unfortunately lost it to fellow teammate Patrick Kane. Jonathan still led all rookies in goal-scoring and was third in overall points. His success as a rookie payed off as Chicago named him the captain of the 2008-09 season and he still holds that position (obviously). He has been elected to three All-Star games, won an Olympic gold medal and is a part of the Triple Gold Club (winning Olympic gold, World Championships gold & Stanley Cup). In 2010, Toews led Chicago to their first Stanley Cup in nearly 40 years, defeating the Philadelphia Flyers in six games. He was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy for being the playoff MVP and became the youngest player to join the Triple Gold Club. Just three quick years later. Toews and the Blackhawks were at it again, reaching the Stanley Cup Finals and winning, also having the best record in the West during the regular season.
Against the Lightning, Toews has proven why he wears the “C” on his chest. In only seven games against Tampa Bay, he has scored five goals with four assists, his most recent on March 9, 2011. He has always been a threat whenever he’s on the ice against the Lightning. In the first meeting between the two teams this season, Toews had two shots on goal and had his shootout attempt saved by Ben Bishop, as well as a +1 for the game. I will not be surprised if we see Toews involved on any of Chicago’s scoring plays tonight, as he is one of the Blackhawks’ key players to watch for in the game.
Marty St. Louis. Do you really need to say anything else? The man is a fourteen year veteran of the game, has a beautiful “C” on his jersey, has won a Stanley Cup with the Lightning (reminiscing on that glorious season), and is one of Tampa Bay’s favorite sports icons. He has won an incredible amount of awards and honors including six All-Star games, three-time Lady Byng Trophy winner, and two-time and reigning Art Ross Trophy winner. Oh, and did I mention that he’s won a Stanley Cup too? Well, yeah he has (still reminiscing on that year). Marty has won the heart of the city and of his teammates simply by being the talented player that he is and being the role model that the young players need.
Marty has played in over 1,000 games in the NHL, yet has only faced the Blackhawks 19 times in his career. In those games, St. Louis has scored seven goals while adding on eleven assists. He scored in the third period of the October 5th game in Chicago that sparked the Bolts offense alive. St. Louis also assisted on the second goal by Teddy Purcell in that game as well. He has been known to be a game changer and always flashes in front of the home crowd. With Corey Crawford injured, Chicago will have former Lightning goalie Nikolai Khabibulin in net tonight. Khabibulin won the Stanley Cup in 2003-04 with the Bolts.
Overall, both of these players are fast-skating, hard-nosed players that have an eye for the puck. Marty’s veteran knowledge of the game plus home-ice gives him a slight advantage over Toews in this game. However, Toews is not one to sleep on. He has the same type of speed as Marty and can break out into the open with ease. The Lightning defenders need to not lose sight of where Toews is when he’s on the ice. Tonight’s game will be a tough match-up, as it always is when they against Chicago but it will also be a fun one to watch. Go Bolts!
Check out a preview of tonight’s game between the Lightning and Blackhawks here.