Blackhawks

Crawford getting stronger as postseason rolls on

Crawford getting stronger as postseason rolls on

Saturday, April 23, 2011
Posted: 2:02 p.m. Updated: 8:22 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

Corey Crawford said he felt better than he had in a while entering Game 5, the one in which he earned his first career postseason shutout. Two days later, he couldnt really put a finger on why.

Sometimes its just streaks you go on, he said. I think since the game has started players have tried to find out why they feel good one day and not the next. Ill just try to carry this into the next game.

If he does, the Blackhawks should be in good shape.

Crawford was strong in his 36-stop performance in Vancouver on Thursday night, as his game has continued to improve through this postseason. Crawford was especially tough in the third period, when the Canucks outshot the Blackhawks 15-6.

We didnt give him much help in the third period but he was good and made a lot of saves. He pretty much earned that shutout himself, Patrick Kane said. You have to be proud the way hes progressed, not just in the playoffs but the whole year. Hes won some games for us and been the backbone for our team.

For Crawford, the playoffs have just been business as usual. Except that this business is win or go home. Still, Crawfords kept his typical calm demeanor.

Im just kind of going with the experience of this season and learning from that and carrying it into the playoffs. Its the same game, just a little more intense, he said.

It didnt hurt that the Blackhawks staked Crawford to big early leads. Crawford also gave credit to the Blackhawks 20 blocked shots in that game. But Crawford hasnt even let the Canucks get close to getting back into either of their last two victories. Its been more composure for a goaltender that rarely shows if hes rattled.

He carries that quiet confidence all the time, even at points of the season when weve had rough patches, Ryan Johnson said. He carries himself in a way thats way beyond his years. For him to do that, it resonates throughout the whole team.

Crawfords work has even gotten notice from the other side, as Crawford and Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo have worked together in the past and have plenty in common. Both are Montreal natives, both have the same agent and both have worked with longtime goaltending coach Francois Allaire.

Hes a great guy, hes very laid back and a very honest, good goaltender, Luongo said. He doesnt make mistakes; hes very textbook and has good position on the pucks. Ive worked with him a long time in Montreal and I was surprised he didnt make the NHL sooner than that.

While Crawfords won the last two games, Luongos been pulled in them. But Crawford said its more what the Blackhawks have done, not a problem with Luongos game.

Its not like were taking wristers from the goal line and theyre going in. Were getting traffic in front of him, were making it tough on him, Crawford said. Obviously its tough on him. Hes the greatest guy in the world and after two games everybodys on him.

Crawford will make his 33rd consecutive start in Game 6 on Sunday, although he said hed never know its been that many if he wasnt reminded of it. Hes kept himself fresh and is reveling in the playoff atmosphere. Hes not feeling like the new guy anymore. Not playing like it, either.

Hes made a lot of big timely saves that the fellas need, Troy Brouwer said. When youre looking for a save he provides it.

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

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit Niklas Hjalmarsson, Coyotes

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit Niklas Hjalmarsson, Coyotes

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Arizona Coyotes Saturday night on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Niklas Hjalmarsson's new home.

Brace yourselves, Chicago. It's going to be a weird site seeing Hjalmarsson in a different sweater other than the Blackhawks, where he spent his first 10 NHL seasons and won three Stanley Cups.

Now he serves as an alternate captain and blue-line anchor for the Coyotes, who are the only team still seeking its first win of the season. You know they'll be hungry to snap that skid, especially when there's extra motivation for a player on their team facing a bunch of old friends.

2. Connor Murphy returns to Arizona, too.

The man Hjalmarsson was traded for will also be returning to a place he called home for four years. Murphy's role with the Coyotes increased every year before he was dealt to the Blackhawks as part of a shake-up for both teams, so you know he's going to play with something to prove.

Murphy is a physical defenseman, and has laid several notable big hits this season. His former teammates surely know it, and may want to keep their heads up.

3. Patrick Kane 2.0?

Ever since he was drafted with the No. 7 overall pick in 2016, Clayton Keller has drawn comparisons to Kane. They're both undersized, offensive playmakers, possess supreme stick-handling abilities and are American-born players.

Keller got a brief taste of NHL action last year, but he's secured a full-time spot with the Coyotes this season and has been arguably their best player so far.

The 19-year-old forward paces all rookies with five goals and ranks second with seven points, and leads the Coyotes in both categories. Expect to see his name as a finalist for the Calder Trophy for the league's top rookie at the end of the season.

Anton Forsberg is giving the Blackhawks exactly what they need

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USA TODAY

Anton Forsberg is giving the Blackhawks exactly what they need

Anton Forsberg had just finished an extended morning skate Wednesday morning in St. Louis. The backup goaltender had played in one regular-season game for the Blackhawks to that point, so getting in extra work to stay sharp was helpful.

“I try to keep my focus in practice and work extra every day, get a few extra shots in practice with the extra guys who are out there, work with Jimmy and try to keep my game shape,” Forsberg said, referring to Blackhawks goaltending coach Jimmy Waite.

Whatever Forsberg’s working on in practice and skates seems to be working, because in two games with the Blackhawks he’s looked sharp. Forsberg probably deserved a victory on Thursday night when he stopped 40 shots in the Blackhawks’ 2-1 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers. It’s the backup life to wait and see when that next start will come, but Forsberg has been ready.

“For sure I felt more comfortable today, more used to the speed,” he said following Thursday’s game. “I felt I read the game better, felt I had more time moving around. It’s tough, again, to lose in overtime. Obviously I wanted to win and it’s frustrating.”

Frustrating for sure, but Forsberg is giving the Blackhawks exactly what they want and need: a dependable backup that gives them a chance to win. The two goals Forsberg gave up on Thursday weren’t softies, either — Patrick Maroon’s goal off a ridiculous Connor McDavid pass and Mark Letestu’s over game-winner that deflected off Brent Seabrook’s stick.

“He kept us in a tight game like he did in Toronto, got us to overtime. I kind of feel bad we didn’t get him a win in either of those,” Ryan Hartman said. “He played well both of those games. It’s nice to have a guy on the back end like that.”

Forsberg has blended in well with the Blackhawks. It helps that he already knew two of them, Brandon Saad and Artem Anisimov, his former teammates in Columbus. He and Corey Crawford already have a good rapport. Same goes for he and Waite, and Forsberg has soaked up any information they’ve given him.

“I feel like both him and Corey teach me a lot. We talk about different situations, especially all the reads,” Forsberg said. “I get to know how (Crawford) thinks the game. He’s been around a long time and has been doing well, so it’s interesting every day to hear what he has to say. Even Jimmy’s been around same thing there, discussing my game, what we want to improve, what we want to do different, what to keep the same and go from there.”

The extra work in practices and skates appears to be working as Forsberg has done a lot right in just his first two games, which were 10 days apart. The Blackhawks have had a good run of backup goaltenders; two games is a small sample size but Forsberg could be the latest reliable backup.