Podcast: Gretzky empathizes with Toews

Jonathan Toews has just three assists in eight playoff games this year. Jerry Lai/USA TODAY Sports

If Wayne Gretzky were coaching Jonathan Toews, he knows what he would tell the Chicago Blackhawks captain to help him snap out of his playoff slump, which has seen him score just three assists in eight games.

"In my career I went through a couple stints where we'd be in a playoff series and I had a couple coaches pull me aside and say, 'We don't need a lot of production out of you. We just need you to score that one big goal whether it's early in the game or late in the game,'" Gretzky said on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "I think that took a lot of pressure off me, and I know Joel Quenneville is a tremendous coach and I'm sure that's what they're talking about right now, 'Listen, you don't need to score three or four or five goals, we just need one big goal out of you, and we know you're capable of doing that,' and I'm sure he'll rise to the occasion tonight."

Toews has just one assist in the Western Conference semifinals, which the Detroit Red Wings lead 2-1. He averaged just over a point per game during the regular season with 48 points in 47 games. Toews scored goals in the Hawks' last two regular season games, but hasn't lit the lamp in the postseason.

"That's the unfortunate or fortunate pressure that the elite player gets from a hockey club," Gretzky said. "When things are going well, obviously you reap a lot of benefits and rewards a lot of flowers and accolades are thrown your way. And then vice versa, when things are tough and things aren't going great, you're going to take a little bit of the pressure and a little bit of the heat. And he understands that. He's a very solid young man and tremendous captain for the Blackhawks."

Gretzky expects the Hawks' best game of the series in Game 4 on Thursday, but he also expects the Wings' best performance.

"There have been many times when I've been on teams there were down two games to one and you just knew that the best players would come to the forefront and as a team you'd play your best game, so I anticipate Chicago playing their best game of the series in Game 4," he said. "Probably getting the extra day's rest between Games 3 and 4 helped both teams, but probably gave Chicago a little bit of an opportunity to go over some of the things that they maybe needed a change in strategy or the system of their team."

Gretzky said one obvious advantage so far for Detroit has been the play of goaltender Jimmy Howard.

"If you could get a goaltender to play at an elite level during playoff time, it really goes a long way in giving the team a tremendous amount of confidence," he said. "Obviously, right now, they're getting that in Detroit from Howard in the first round and again against the Chicago Blackhawks."