The Western Conference semifinals between the Blackhawks and Red Wings will feature two of the best two-way players in the game, as both Jonathan Toews and Pavel Datsyuk were named finalists for the Selke Trophy, given to the league's top defensive forward, on Wednesday. Boston's Patrice Bergeron was the other finalist.
For Toews, it was his second nomination in three years. For Datsyuk, a three-time winner of the award, it's his sixth straight nomination.
Toews said individual awards weren't the focus, but that's it's nice all the same.
"It's a good feeling, for sure," Toews said. "For a while, it was [Patrick Kane] and I being mentioned in the hart conversation, and I don't think you get to that point without having great teammates and a great team behind you. The same goes for this. It's definitely an honor and something special. You look at the other two players that have been nominated and it's an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as those two guys. So it's a pretty cool feeling."
The Hawks felt it was an easy choice.
"A lot of things make him special defensively," said Hawks rookie Brandon Saad. "His compete level is amazing. He's a two-way player, that's who he is. He works hard, he's determined, he's always hard on th epuck, he makes simple plays. It's well-deserved."
Detroit coach Mike Babcock said Toews' value goes beyond numbers, and also beyond defense.
"What he does on film is one thing," Babcock said. "That's not what makes him what he is. How tough he is mentally, how [good he is] every day, what a great person he is -- that's what makes him the conscience of this team, the captain that he is. I like him a lot."
Saad has had the privilege to play alongside two of the top two-way players in the world in Toews and Marian Hossa, a supremely gifted defender who again was overlooked in favor of centers. For Saad, who patterns his style after theirs, it's been a perfect situation.
"That's something I want to emulate my game around, I want to be that type of player," Saad said. "Thats' how I've been grown up, and that's what I want to continue to do. So having two role models like that, it's been a great year for me, for my confidence and my learning."