Goalie Rinne and centres Toews and Spezza named NHL three stars of week

NEW YORK – Jonathan Toews is making up ground after a slow start to the NHL season.

The Chicago Blackhawks young captain was named second star of the week by the NHL on Monday after he had six points (4-2) in three games and had a pair of game-winning goals to help the Blackhawks earn five of six available points.

Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne was named NHL first star and Ottawa Senators centre Jason Spezza was the third star.

Toews was named captain this season despite being only 20 years old and it appeared to weigh on him as he started the season with no goals and seven assists in the first 12 games. Since then, he has piled up eight goals and added seven assists in 13 games.

“Personally, I don’t believe in a sophomore slump,” Toews said during a conference call. “I think it’s a mental thing a player goes through, that sometimes other people convince him that’s what he’s going through.

“I had a slow start. Maybe I put a little too much pressure on myself. A lot of people may have associated that with the captaincy and I always denied that.”

It may have had more to do with going head-to-head against top lines as opponents paid more attention to the Blackhawks’ young stars like Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and others.

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“It’s not easy to come in as a second year player, especially after everything was so exciting in the first year,” Toews added. “Everything goes easy and smooth.

“I had all the opportunities last year and you expect it to be the same, but you’ve got to earn every bit of success you have.”

Toews had 24 goals and 30 assists in 64 games as a rookie last season and the Winnipeg native is looking to improve on that total this season.

“Now, reality sinks in, where it’s not dreamland any more, but it’s still exciting to play different teams and great players night after night,” the Blackhawks centre said. “I’m at a point now where I’m starting to think the game more, to sit back and just let the play happen in front of me instead of trying to control everything and be everywhere at once.

“I was trying too hard maybe earlier on in the season and now I’m conserving my energy and playing smarter. I think that’s why things are happening for me. It’s nice finally to get through that.”

Rinne won all three of his starts last week. He had two shutouts and recorded a .976 save percentage.

Spezza had four goals – including a hat trick – last week to help Ottawa win both of its games.