Blackhawks

Blackhawks offense sputters yet again vs. Canadiens

Blackhawks offense sputters yet again vs. Canadiens

The broken record played again on Sunday night. Corey Crawford shutting out an opponent, at least for a while, on one end. The Blackhawks not finding any offense at the other. Sure, there’s been a power-play goal here or an empty-net goal there, but nothing consistent and little on 5-on-5.

Right now for the Blackhawks, it’s either Crawford shutout or bust.

Another game another listless offensive outing for the Blackhawks. They could talk about their opportunities against Charlie Lindgren, the good chances the young Montreal goaltender stopped (38 saves in all), the rebounds he gave up that the Blackhawks couldn’t get to and the near misses the Blackhawks had. It’s easy to say something should happen when you get 38 shots on goal but it again comes down to quality. There was some, but there could’ve been more.

“When you see the shot totals high with no goals, maybe some are coming from the outside, not enough second efforts in front of the goaltenders, taking his eyes away and getting those loose pucks around the net,” Patrick Sharp said. “We have to find a way to generate more offense and help our goaltender out.”

It goes beyond Sunday. The Blackhawks have one 5-on-5 goal in their last three games (Jonathan Toews’ breakaway midway through their victory over Philadelphia on Wednesday). The Blackhawks have tried different line combinations, and they did a little more mixing in the third period on Sunday night, but it hasn’t yielded much. The Blackhawks rarely used to worry about 5-on-5 scoring. Now, as coach Joel Quenneville said following Sunday’s game, they’re “starting to think about it.”

“I don’t know if we need a bounce to get some confidence or get more traffic at the net when our D are shooting the puck. We’re making it too easy on the goaltenders,” Nick Schmaltz said. “[Lindgren] made some great saves, don’t get me wrong. We had some backdoor [chances] we could bear down on a little more on. But it’s just getting to the net and creating more second-chance opportunities and sustaining pucks in the offensive zone.”

Patrick Kane said it’s “definitely frustrating right now.”

“It seems like we either have the chances or we're not really producing much. It's not really fun when it’s going that way,” he said. “That just comes with being more confident around the net. Being a little bit more patient if the puck comes on your stick. Take that extra second and put it where it needs to be.”

The necessary goaltending on one end, the inexplicable inability to score at the other. It’s been a broken record for the Blackhawks this early season, and it keeps spinning.

“We just have to bear down,” Schmaltz said. “Hopefully one game we break out and we won’t be talking about this anymore.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Are Blackhawks doomed to miss playoffs without Crawford?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Are Blackhawks doomed to miss playoffs without Crawford?

Jesse Rogers (ESPN Chicago), Patrick Finley (Chicago Sun-Times) and Dan McNeil join Chuck Garfien on the panel.

Corey Crawford is reportedly suffering vertigo-like symptoms and there’s a chance he might not return this season. Are the Blackhawks playoff chances gone if he doesn’t come back?

Plus, the guys talk Bears coaches, preview Conference Championship weekend and Jesse discusses if the Cubs are saving their money for next winter’s big free agent class.

Listen to the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

Why Corey Crawford situation is tricky for Blackhawks

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USA TODAY

Why Corey Crawford situation is tricky for Blackhawks

The Blackhawks have been tight-lipped about Corey Crawford's status ever since he was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 27 with an upper-body injury, and it's fueled rampant speculation on social media about what's really going on. That came to an end on Tuesday when Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times reported that there's growing concern within the organization that its star goaltender could miss the remainder of the season with vertigo-like symptoms. (Blackhawks senior adviser Scotty Bowman went on Sportsnet 590 The Fan on Wednesday to clarify it's post-concussion syndrome).

And while there's at least some clarity surrounding Crawford's condition, it's opened up more questions about what the Blackhawks may do going forward.

On Monday we broke down the unfavorable playoff picture for the Blackhawks going into the bye week, which was a glaring concern in and of itself. Add in the possibility that Crawford could be sidelined for the rest of the campaign and those chances absolutely diminish.

So what course of action should the Blackhawks take ahead of the Feb. 26 trade deadline? That's where the tricky part comes in.

Because of the nature of Crawford's injury, the Blackhawks aren't at a point right now where they want to put him on long-term injured reserve because that would require him to miss a minimum of 10 games or 24 days, and they're still holding out hope that he could come back within that timeframe. The problem with it is that nobody really knows. It could be days, weeks or months, and putting a restriction on that doesn't make much sense in the middle of a playoff run even though it would open up significant cap space.

Which brings us to our next point. There are certainly some decent rental goaltenders (Robin Lehner, Petr Mrazek or Antti Raanta, to name a few) on the market if the Blackhawks choose to go that route, but that might not be the wisest thing to do.

Given their spot in the standings and the chances Crawford could return, why risk giving up future assets for a playoff run that may not happen? It would be different if the Blackhawks wanted to add some insurance for the stretch run and postseason, but there's no guarantee it'll happen.

If the Blackhawks did, however, want to go that route, they would need to act quickly because there's no point in waiting closer to the deadline. Every point is crucial from here on out.

Perhaps the best and most logical idea is to stand pat.

Let it ride with Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass and hope they can hold the fort down until a potential Crawford return. Let the young guys continue to grow. Maybe add a defenseman to patch up the back end, but don't empty the tank. There's no reason to. The Blackhawks are hoping to sign highly-touted prospect Dylan Sikura after his college season ends, which would serve as a deadline acquisition by itself.

It will be tempting for the Blackhawks to be aggressive at the trade deadline in the wake of Crawford's injury, and they're surely already having these discussions as they continue to explore the different avenues. But this might be a rare case where doing nothing is the right way to go.