College buddies met as rivals for first time on Saturday
Saturday, 10.18.2008 / 9:40 PM CT / St Louis Blues - Features
By Chris Pinkert - St. Louis Blues
|T.J. Oshie invited Chicago's Jonathan Toews to dinner and promised to keep the trash talk to a minimum. "I'm saving it for the game," Oshie said Saturday morning. (Getty Images).|
A mere 24 hours later, they were bitter rivals.
It's not that the dinner went bad, but when the Blues met the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night at Scottrade Center, the former University of North Dakota linemates were wearing opposite colors for the first time in their hockey careers; Oshie in blue, Toews in enemy red.
“It (was) a little bit different since we’re usually in the same color green,” Oshie said. “I don’t know if I like (playing against Toews) too much because of his work ethic, how good he is and how much offense he brings to the game. But I (was) excited for the challenge.”
He was up for it, too.
Oshie beat Nikolai Khabibulin for the game-winning goal in a shootout, lifting the Blues to a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Blackhawks. Toews scored Chicago's lone shootout goal.
In college, the pair dominated the games, leading the Fighting Sioux to two consecutive Frozen Four appearances before Toews, a first-round draft pick (third overall) by Chicago in 2006, left to play in the pros.
“They’re both great players,” said Blues forward Chris Porter, who also played at North Dakota and scored his first career NHL goal in Saturday's game. “It didn’t matter who I was playing with, we always had a good line because of those two. (Toews) is a great playmaker, but I think (Oshie) probably has better hands.”
“We were all working together as a line on every shift,” Oshie said about his college linemates, whether it was Toews, Porter or Ryan Duncan, who won the Hobey Baker Award in 2007 as college hockey’s most valuable player. “They gave me chances to go around and make that big hit, cheat a little bit or make a flashier play because I knew they were going to be able to back me up. We almost always knew where each other was (on the ice) just from playing together and building that chemistry. It worked out really well.”
Oshie finished a three-year college career with 142 points (59 goals, 83 assists), while Toews recorded 85 points (40 goals, 45 assists) in two years at the university. He also fared so well as a rookie last season that he was named team captain in July, making him the third youngest captain in NHL history at 20 years, 79 days.
|Jonathan Toews spent two seasons as Oshie's teammate at the University of North Dakota and played in two Frozen Fours. (Getty Images).
“We enjoy playing the game,” Toews said. “We were smiling at each other, but business is business. Obviously we have to go out there and work and do a job for our team.”
“Every time you go on the ice, there are no friends,” Porter said. “(And) anytime the Blues and Blackhawks play, it’s a pretty good rivalry. I think both teams are on the up-and-up, with younger and older players. Both want to win now, so anytime you have teams like that, it’s going to be a great rivalry.”
Both clubs are chock full of young talent that will remain a staple for years to come. And with the announcement earlier this week of former Blues’ coach Joel Quenneville as the new bench boss in Chicago, it’s possible the Blues/Blackhawks rivalry of years past will return soon in full force.
“Absolutely, why not?” Toews said. “Our division is getting a lot stronger in the past few years. It’ll be fun to see, it’ll definitely be a battle between the young guys. It could be a start, who knows.”
The truth is, the friendly rivalry between the three players started Friday night at dinner.
Oshie and Porter offered to take the Blackhawks’ captain out, then conveniently argued amongst themselves about who would pick up the bill. Frustrated and trying to keep things simple, Toews ended up paying for dinner.
“They owe me when they come to Chicago,” said Toews.
Could the Blues rookies have been arguing simply to trick him into picking up the tab?
“No, absolutely not," Porter said, laughing. "We owe him next time."