The value and importance of the Conn Smythe trophy generally doesn't sink in until much later, a fact that will not be lost on Chicago Blackhawks' captain Jonathan Toews. On a night when the Blackhawks won their first championship in 49 years in overtime with contributions for all parts of their ultra-deep line-up, it was their captain, Toews, who won the Smythe as the playoff's MVP.
Toews, for his part, was more focused on the second trophy that he received from commissioner Gary Bettman, the Stanley Cup, following Wednesday night's 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Toews received the nod for his strong play in the first three rounds of the playoffs, more than his work in the final, where his offensive contributions were limited, largely by Flyers' defenceman Chris Pronger.
"There aren't any words to describe what any of us are feeling right now," said Toews, amid the bedlam of the celebration on the ice at the Wachovia Centre.
"I'm speechless, like in that television commercial. This team put on one heck of a run. We knew from day one of this season we had the potential to do it. To realize our goal, it's an amazing feeling."
Patrick Kane scored the winning goal, but Toews had been the team's inspirational leader, even at the age of 22, and this could go down in his own personal history as a year he may never duplicate. In addition to last night's honors, he also won Olympic gold; and was named top forward of the Olympic tournament.
In short, Toews did as much in a year as some players do in their entire careers - and in many ways, his career is just starting.
"This is the best feeling you can ever get playing hockey, and I just can't belive it's happening," said Toews.
The NHL does not publicly release the final Conn Smythe voting results, but the thinking is that Toews' main competition for the award came from Blackhawks defenceman Duncan Keith, fellow centre Patrick Sharp as well as Pronger, who had an outstanding playoff in a losing effort for the Flyers. Sharp scored another pivotal goal for the Blackhawks last night, giving him 11 for the playoffs. Keith logged heroic minutes once again for a team that relied heavily on him and Brent Seabrook for the defensive heavy lifting.
But Toews did his part too, blocking shots and winning face-offs, even if the pucks that were going in for him earlier in the playoffs didn't against the Flyers. He held up under the pressure of being team captain at such a young age, a player that coach Joel Quenneville would do many more great things in his career.