ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Blackhawks have been trending in the right direction in a few aspects of their game. Their power play still isn’t great, but it’s been responsible for the game-winning goal in two consecutive contests. Artem Anisimov, after a rough start, has a four-game goal streak which includes those two power-play goals.
But the constant remains Corey Crawford, who has gone from allowing very little to nothing at all.
Crawford’s been a big topic of conversation this season and for good reason. When the Blackhawks have sputtered he’s been stellar. That continued on Saturday night when Crawford recorded his second consecutive shutout, a 24-stop performance in the Blackhawks’ 2-0 victory over the Minnesota Wild.
Crawford now has a shutout streak of 131 minutes, 15 seconds; the last goal he gave up was to Colorado’s Rocco Grimaldi 8:45 into the Avalanche’s 6-3 victory over the Blackhawks on Oct. 28.
That’s all well and good for Crawford, but he still needs more help on the other side.
“He makes big saves, key times. We just need to help him out,” Anisimov said. “[Allow] less shots. Better defensive play, the whole team.”
No argument there. The Blackhawks allowed fewer shots but those they gave up were still pretty choice. Crawford started the third period stopping breakaways by Eric Staal and Jared Spurgeon. Nino Niederreiter thought he had a goal against Crawford in the first period – lights flashed and the horn blew – but the puck bounced off the post and went back to Crawford, who leg-swept it away.
“I saw it go off the post. You kind of know where [the puck] is, so sweep and hope for the best,” Crawford said. “I don’t know. A little luck, too, I guess.”
Sure, that never hurts. But most of Crawford’s work lately has been good, not lucky. As far as the Blackhawks’ offense, they’ve eked out enough; on Saturday it was Anisimov’s power-play goal and Alex DeBrincat’s empty-net goal. Not bad, but it could be better.
“We’d still like more production but at the same time the better you check the more offense you get off it,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I still don’t think we generated enough offense [vs. the Wild] but we didn’t mind the way we played without it. Some nights they go in.”