Jonathan Toews ‘grateful’ to reach 1,000 games, even in Blackhawks’ loss to Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. — Captain Jonathan Toews’ 1,000th career game didn’t go much better for the Blackhawks than Patrick Kane’s 1,000th game did.

The Hawks’ respectable effort Thursday wasn’t enough to avoid a 4-0 loss to the Panthers, but it was a slight improvement from their 6-1 loss to the Stars in Kane’s milestone game in March 2021.

Still, one forgettable loss in an already-lost season hardly reduced the luster of the achievement.

”I’m very grateful to make it to this point,” Toews said. ”Mostly, I just want to share that appreciation with my teammates. . . . They were very good at giving me all the recognition and putting me on the spot with all of that. It was a special game, win or lose.”

Toews became the 366th player in NHL history to reach the milestone and only the eighth to do so entirely with the Hawks.

And although the franchise has been blessed with a steady stream of these milestones lately, Toews’ might be the last for a while. Defenseman Seth Jones is at 644 games, but most of those weren’t with the Hawks. Wing Alex DeBrincat is next in line in the only-as-a-Hawk category, but he has played in only 354 games.

Toews’ accomplishment is particularly special because of the health issues he overcame in recent years to reach it — he wouldn’t have been so far behind Kane if not for them — as well as its timing. It came right as Toews begins contemplating his future with the Hawks as they enter their rebuild.

With just more than a year left on his contract, it never has been more uncertain how much longer Toews will be the Hawks’ captain. But at least he reached this threshold with the ”C” on his sweater.

”[I’ve] really grown pretty close with these guys in this room,” Toews said. ”When you go through challenges and you have a season where there’s a lot of ups and downs [and] maybe you don’t make the playoffs, it’s tough to stick together. And this team has done nothing but that. So I’m definitely very appreciative to have been able to reach that mark with this group right now.”

The Hawks left a couple of unidentified ”little things” in Toews’ locker stall before the game to make him laugh, an irresistible temptation when dealing with a man so naturally serious. And they later lined up, NFL player introduction-style, along either side of the entrance to the ice to welcome him out for warmups.

Toews nearly gave himself the gift of a goal to celebrate the occasion, but he was stymied several times by Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who made 37 saves.

Despite the final score, the Hawks actually finished with a 34-31 advantage in scoring chances.

”We just couldn’t get it by their goalie,” interim coach Derek King said. ”He stood on his head. We had numerous opportunities point-blank, and they were just not going in. And [against] a team like that, that’s [that] offensive, you drop your guard here or there, and . . . [it’s] game over.”

Added Toews: ”Sometimes you’re freaking out a little bit, and you should maybe have a little more patience. It’s just [that] you don’t expect to have time when you’re in the blue paint like that.”

Toews reached the 1,000-game plateau with career regular-season totals of 355 goals, 489 assists, 2,586 shots on goal, 796 takeaways and 11,220 faceoff wins.

He’ll be more grandly honored when the Hawks host the Coyotes on Sunday at the United Center.

”There’s still not a whole slew of guys that are [playing] 1,000 games,” King said. ”To get to that milestone, you’ve got to be pretty good. It’s hard to get there. Hats off to him.”

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