Blackhawks: Corey Crawford regrouping, happy for Scott Darling


Blackhawks: Corey Crawford regrouping, happy for Scott Darling

Corey Crawford joined a few other teammates for an optional practice at Johnny’s IceHouse West, working to rekindle his game that fared so well through most of the regular season.

“The only thing I can do now is be ready in case I go back in,” said Crawford, who will back up Scott Darling when the Blackhawks host the Nashville Predators in Game 4 of their first-round series. “Other than that, encourage the guys, stay positive and make sure the body language is good. Everything’s positive around here. There’s a nice feel around the room, nothing negative.”

Crawford is taking the situation well outwardly – he could be handling it the same inwardly, too, for all we know. Of course he’s frustrated; no competitor at this level would be happy to be taking a backseat. But Crawford said the team’s continued playoff success outweighs what he thinks of coach Joel Quenneville’s decision to go with Darling.

“We’re up 2-1 in the series; nothing else matters,” he said. “It’s the wins. Nothing else counts.”

[MORE HAWKS: Blackhawks riding with Scott Darling in Game 4 vs. Predators]

Crawford got off to a so-so start in Game 1 and was pulled after the first period for Darling. On that night, the choice was as much about the team’s shoddy performance in front of Crawford as it was the goaltender. But things went from mediocre to bad in Game 2, when Crawford allowed all of the goals in the team’s 6-2 loss to the Predators.

“Obviously there’s lots of room for improvement,” Crawford said with a little laugh. “I said after Game 2 I started feeling better in that game, then they got some chances late that just squeaked through. Some stuff, obviously, [that] I made saves throughout the years, those ones went by. But I’m starting to see the puck better.

“I didn’t get much time in Game 1,” Crawford continued. “I was off a little bit – good first shot and the other was a tip, another misplay and then I’m out of the game and have to regroup, try to come back in Game 2 quick. It got away from me. Now it’s trying to see the puck and get that feeling back. I’m working hard to get that edge I had before.”

For now, however, it looks like it’s Darling’s job to lose. Darling stopped another 35 shots on Sunday afternoon in the Blackhawks’ 4-2 victory over Nashville. Darling said Crawford has been fully supportive throughout this season, including now.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“I mean, he’s been awesome to me. He’s been like a mentor to me, teaching me tons,” Darling said. “He has tons of experience here and I’ve been very limited. I can’t thank him enough for the life and goalie lessons he’s shared with me.”

Crawford said, despite frustration in his own game, he’s happy for Darling.

“He’s gone through a lot to get here and he’s been playing awesome. How can you not feel good for him?” Crawford said. “I have to encourage him, keep pushing him to be his best.”

Crawford has gone through plenty of ups and downs in his NHL career. Right now, he’s working on what he can control, and waiting for when he gets the chance again.

“I’ve gone through a lot of things, especially on our playoff run when we won,” he said. “There’s a lot you have to go through mentally as a goalie, a starter in this league. It’s just another thing that will only make me stronger going forward.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Seth Gruen (Big Ten Unfiltered) and Jason Goch (SB Nation Radio) join Kap on the panel. 

The Blackhawks drop their 8th straight. So should their “One Goal” be to tank?

Plus, Jon Lester isn’t a fan of the new pace of play proposals. Is he right?

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

With playoff chances all but over, what can Blackhawks do at trade deadline?


With playoff chances all but over, what can Blackhawks do at trade deadline?

After losing their eighth straight game and falling 12 points out of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference, the Blackhawks' playoff chances have dipped to a season-low 0.2 percent. It would take a miracle for them to extend their postseason streak to 10 at this point, where getting just one win seems like a monumental task.

The Blackhawks were probably never really going to be buyers before the Feb. 26 trade deadline even if they were still in the hunt, but it's hard to imagine they had plans to be sellers. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has reiterated over and over again that he's confident in this group, one that's getting younger and faster.

But now they've reached a territory where they have to consider selling off spare parts simply to coup some draft picks or prospects that they could perhaps retain or use as sweeteners in the offseason.

So which players could the Blackhawks realistically sell?

Let's start with the two players getting rewarded with top-six ice time as of late: Lance Bouma and Tommy Wingels.

These are two players that play with high energy and go to the greasy areas, something that's important in the playoffs when scoring goals becomes more difficult. They can clean up rebounds. Wingels, particularly, likely has more value and it's showing given his recent success on the power play as a net-front presence guy. He also isn't a stranger to the playoffs with 54 games under his belt compared to Bouma's five.

Both of them are pending unrestricted free agents and are making $1 million or fewer, which certainly works in the Blackhawks' favor considering they won't cost much and their cap hits are easy to fit in on any interested team.

Maybe a team would like to take a flyer on Tomas Jurco, who's a restricted free agent at the end of the season, but that would be a move somebody makes as more of a longer term project than strengthening your depth for a playoff run this spring.

On the back end, Michal Kempny and Jan Rutta could be in play for a contender looking to ensure some depth as a sixth or seventh defenseman. Again, each of them are making less than $1 million so it's a low-risk situation for clubs whose Plan A or B fall through and may be interested in at least getting something.

While they don't have much NHL experience, they're both 27 years old and have played the sport long enough to know what they can bring to the table.

Once Feb. 26 passes and potential roster spots open up, expect the Blackhawks to start calling up the kids. 

Matthew Highmore deserves a look after leading the Rockford IceHogs with 20 goals and 32 points. John Hayden has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 15 games since joining Rockford, and belongs in the NHL. Even Anthony Louis, who's taken a step forward, should get a taste of the action as he continues his development.

Carl Dahlstrom is getting his shot now. Erik Gustafsson is in that process as well. Gustav Forsling had another extended look during the first half of the season before the team decided it would be wise to continue his development in Rockford, where he can play top-pairing minutes.

All of this would give the Blackhawks a better indicator of how they can approach the upcoming offseason, and which young guys they can possibly add into the mix for 2018-19. But first, we have to see how the end of February plays out before making those calls.