Corey Crawford stellar again as Blackhawks smother Avalanche

Corey Crawford stellar again as Blackhawks smother Avalanche

After Corey Crawford allowed just one goal against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday, he said he’s felt better every game.

He apparently felt fantastic on Thursday night.

Crawford recorded his second shutout in his past three games, stopping all 38 shots he saw, and Marian Hossa scored twice in the Blackhawks’ 4-0 victory over the Colorado Avalanche. The Blackhawks won their fourth consecutive game and have points in their last six (5-0-1). Jonathan Toews scored his second goal of the season, which proved to be the game winner.

Artem Anisimov had the secondary assist on Hossa’s goal, extending his career-best, nine-game point streak. Duncan Keith had two assists. Artemi Panarin scored his fifth of the season with 7:20 remaining in regulation.

It was another stellar night for Crawford, who has now stopped 103 of the 104 shots he’s seen in his past three games. He was once again tested early and often, but held up under the pressure as the Blackhawks were outshot 11-1 in the first 12 minutes, 47 seconds of the game.

“He’s been outstanding,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Again tonight, the first period comparable to the last few first periods we’ve seen, where he’s kept us in the game and we’ve had opportunistic scoring and put ourselves in a good spot. but single-handedly there, he made some big, big saves.”

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

It has become a trend for the Blackhawks: struggle and get outshot badly early, then come back with a flourish. Tonight it was two goals in 38 seconds, first by Toews (a rebound off Keith’s shot) and Hossa’s first of the night. And just like that, the Blackhawks were in control.

Crawford again came up big late in the second period, when the Avalanche again pushed the pace and brought a flurry of shots.

“I was just trying to track the puck,” Crawford said. “Our [defensemen] are doing a good job of being on the side of the net, clearing stuff and taking away options on the side there. I just have to try to find the puck from the blue line and our guys are doing a great job with that on the rebounds.”

Hossa scored his second of the night, splitting two Avalanche defensemen off a great pass from Keith, for a 3-0 lead 55 seconds into the third period. Hossa, who certainly benefited from a rare long offseason, has five goals through his first 10 games.

“You know, sometimes when the puck goes in for you early you’re more relaxed. You don’t force things. Right now I think that’s what’s happening,” Hossa said. “I’m playing with two great players (Anisimov and Panarin). Find the open area and those guys can find you. Things are clicking.”

The Blackhawks are sort of clicking, too. Those starts are still an issue; the Blackhawks are not going to be able to win every game they’re slow out of the game. But right now they’re getting what they need from their top six forwards, and getting a ton from their goaltender.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. One big reunion.

The Blackhawks will square off with the Blue Jackets for the first time since Oct. 7, which was the second game of the season. In that game, they won 5-1 led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, each of whom scored a goal and added an assist.

Of course, that was the first game since the offseason trade that sent Artemi Panarin to Columbus and Saad back to Chicago, along with Anton Forsberg. Artem Anisimov, of course, was part of the original deal that sent Saad to Columbus in 2015, so there are a lot of emotional ties between the two teams.

Forsberg didn't get a chance to face the Blue Jackets in the first meeting, but there's a chance he will this time with it being the second of a back-to-back and Jean-Francois Berube getting the start in Friday's 3-1 win over San Jose.

2. Panarin and Kane bromance.

The emotions of a difficult break-up have probably died down by now, but Panarin and Kane gave us this moment at center ice during pregame warmups in their first game against each other and it hit Chicago right in the feels:

Panarin has spent enough time apart from Kane for people to realize how big of a star he is in his own right, leading the Blue Jackets in all three scoring categories: goals (17), assists (32) and points (49).

He hasn't gone more than three games this season without recording a point, and is looking to extend his point streak to four games, which would tie a season high.

3. Struggling Blue Jackets special teams.

The Blue Jackets got off to a great start but are barely clinging onto a wild card spot going into Saturday's game, and a big reason for that slide is their lack of success on special teams. Usually one can pick up the slack for the other, but they've been brutal in both departments.

The Blue Jackets are 0-for-9 on the power play in their past five games and are ranked 31st overall, converting on only 14.1 percent of their opportunities. They also have own the 27th-ranked penalty kill with a 76.3 percent success rate.

So if there's an area the Blackhawks can exploit, it's that. But, you know, still be mindful of that Russian winger's one-timer from the faceoff circle.

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start


Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

Jean-Francois Berube got his first start of the season on Friday night, and it couldn't have gone any better.

The 26-year-old goaltender stopped 42 of 43 shots, a career-high for him in saves, in the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the United Center.

Since Corey Crawford went down with a head injury last December, the Blackhawks have been searching for consistency in the crease. 

The pair of Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass — who was assigned to Rockford on Feb. 15 and replaced with Berube — have had their ups and downs since then. With the Blackhawks out of the playoff picture, Berube had an opportunity showcase his skills, and he didn't disappoint.

"We were very happy with him," said coach Joel Quenneville. "I thought he did a great job. He was comfortable. I thought he was very patient in his net. Absorbing a lot of pucks with people in front of him was good. Closed some gaps and got … of the top of the paint. Rebound control was effective. Nice response from a long absence."

Berube's last — and only — appearance with the Blackhawks prior to Friday's game came on Dec. 6, relieving Forsberg in a game against the Washington Capitals. He recorded 12 saves of 14 shots. 

When Crawford got injured, Berube was the primary candidate to become the team's backup goaltender. The only problem? He was injured too, so the Blackhawks promoted Glass.

"I didn't want to sit and think about it," Berube said of his injury. "At the same time, it was great for Glasser. He was one of those guys that probably deserved it earlier in his career and he finally got his chance. Sometimes you need a guy to go down to have your chance. So I was mostly happy for him.

On Friday night, he got his chance.

"You always want to have a good impression for your first game," Berube said. "I know what I can do at this level, so it was just a matter of getting the opportunity to play and showing people what I can do."

Celebrating his 22nd birthday, Nick Schmaltz also had a goal and an assist. Artem Anisimov scored an empty-netter.

"It's a lot more fun coming to the rink when you're winning, enjoying each other, playing well as a team," Schmaltz said of the Blackhawks' win, which have now won three of their last four games. "Hopefully we can keep that good energy and bring it to the rink every day, and build off of that.

"You never know where this team can go, a lot of great players, lots of guys that have had a lot of success. Hopefully we can continue to put together solid efforts."