Blackhawks

Blackhawks' depth being tested in playoffs

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Blackhawks' depth being tested in playoffs

Thursday, April 14, 2011Posted: 8:25 PM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

VANCOUVER, British Columbia Depth. The Chicago Blackhawks used to have plenty of it. This year, what little theyve got has been tested time after time.

And now its getting tested again.

With Game 2 coming tomorrow against the Vancouver Canucks, the Blackhawks could be down another forward. Tomas Kopecky suffered an undisclosed injury in the first period on Wednesday night and is doubtful to play tomorrow. Dave Bolland is out with his concussion.

I think as weve gone along you always get tested. You take some looks at other guys. Thats what its all about, coach Joel Quenneville said. Its someone stepping up and taking advantage of it to help the team in a positive way.

No, injuries are nothing new to any hockey team. The Blackhawks have gotten through theirs well at times despite missing Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa for most of December, Chicago was able to play above .500 hockey. But finding players to step up in key roles throughout hasnt always been easy.

Contrast their situation with that of the Canucks, who enjoyed the depth this season that the Blackhawks used to have. Vancouver had quite a few injuries among their defense corps this season. But they tapped into their farm system, which yielded strong results. Henrik Sedin called the transition seamless, as the Canucks just kept rolling through their injury issues.

Guys stepped up and played a lot of minutes. Now theyre in the press box, Sedin said. On a lot of other teams they would be playing.

This season, the Blackhawks have relied heavily on their top players to get them through injury woes. Thats fine for a while, but eventually they start to wear down. Now youve got the Vancouver Canucks recognizing that as they brought a big, physical presence in Game 1.

Over the course of a series, it wears them down, Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. We have four lines and six D rolling over right now. We have fresh legs throwing bodies out there.

And the Blackhawks are taking more abuse than theyre giving. As Quenneville said, the Hawks physical game was below average; the scoresheet showed the Canucks outhitting them 47-21 in Game 1. A lot of those hits seemed to come early when the Canucks were determined to make their presence felt. Literally.

There are no excuses on that part, defenseman Brian Campbell said on possible depth issues. You roll the next person in and go. Nobodys going to feel sorry for us and thats not going to win us a playoff series. Good teams learn how to get past that to win.

True, but the responsibilities have to be spread throughout more. The Blackhawks, down Bolland for all of Game 1 and Kopecky through most of it, leaned heavily on their best players. Patrick Kane played nearly 24 minutes, Jonathan Toews logged more than 23 and a not-100-percent Patrick Sharp played nearly 21. The Blackhawks need more from others and they havent gotten it at a sustained rate like they did last season.

The Blackhawks did their best to patch lineups through depth problems this season. A tight salary cap limiting their Rockford call-ups didnt help.

Injuries happen to every team, every season. The Canucks depth kept their top players from getting worn out. The Hawks may not be as fortunate.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

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.