Five things from Blackhawks-Bruins: Last looks and lower-body injuries

Five things from Blackhawks-Bruins: Last looks and lower-body injuries

The Blackhawks wrapped up their preseason schedule on Saturday night. But how was their health at the end of the night? Let’s talk about that and a few other items in the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 1-0 victory over the Boston Bruins.

1. “I think they’ll be all right.” Neither Jonathan Toews nor Connor Murphy were on the bench at the end of Saturday’s game — Murphy went off with about 4:40 remaining in regulation and Toews, who took a puck off his leg in the third period, came back before leaving again. Both appeared to suffer lower-body injuries, but coach Joel Quenneville said that both should be OK. “We’ll know more tomorrow,” he added. As Patrick Sharp said, “that’s the one thing you don’t want to do in that last game is lose some bodies. We’ll see how they’re doing. Hopefully everybody’s OK and ready to go in a couple of days.”

2. Corey Crawford finishes strong. Crawford’s last outing against the Bruins in Boston was a rough one. He made up for it tonight, closing out the preseason with a 38-stop shutout. While the rest of the Blackhawks looked sluggish overall, Crawford was outstanding. Again, we’re only dealing with a two-week sample size, but with Crawford maintaining form and Anton Forsberg having two good outings, the Blackhawks’ goaltending situation should be all right.

3. Alex DeBrincat takes a third-line spin. The Blackhawks have put the 19-year-old with a couple of different combinations. And after joining Artem Anisimov and Ryan Hartman at the Blackhawks’ first practice at Notre Dame on Sunday, that’s where DeBrincat was in the preseason finale. Overall, the Blackhawks looked just a little off, so this wasn’t the most telling look of that trio. But Quenneville was very happy with DeBrincat again.

4. Another good night for Jan Rutta. The Blackhawks beat out a few teams vying for the Czech defenseman’s services, signing him to a one-year deal over the summer. He’s had a good camp and capped it with another solid outing on Saturday night. Rutta, paired with fellow Czech Michal Kempny, has looked poised throughout and gives the Blackhawks another option on the blue line.

5. Is this the Blackhawks’ opening night lineup? As Quenneville said after the game, “possibly.” The Blackhawks will likely make their final roster decisions on Monday, and considering the camps DeBrincat and John Hayden have had, they’ve earned opportunities. But remember: on the opening night of the season Marian Hossa must still be on this roster. So don’t worry so much about the Blackhawks’ roster on the NHL’s opening night (Wednesday); keep an eye on what it is on the team’s opening night (Thursday).

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Has the championship window closed?


Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Has the championship window closed?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Jonathan Toews sits down with Pat Boyle for a 1-on-1 interview. Toews weighs in on his season with Brandon Saad, whether he expects major changes this offseason and has the championship window closed?

Also, Adam Burish joins the podcast and plays the game: “Building block, not sure, or no thanks.” Burish runs down the Blackhawks forwards and predicts whether or not they have a future with the team.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

What should the Blackhawks do in goal next season?

What should the Blackhawks do in goal next season?

The last time the Blackhawks were in Winnipeg they exploded for three first-period goals en route to a 5-1 victory on Dec. 14.

The roles were reversed on Thursday.

It appeared the Blackhawks might be headed for another drubbing when Brandon Saad scored 11 seconds into the game and they were awarded an ensuing power play following a failed offside challenge by the home team, but the Jets killed it off then responded with five unanswered goals over the next 11:53 and didn't look back as Chicago lost 6-2.

Anton Forsberg was pulled for the sixth time in his 27th start this season after allowing three goals on six shots, while J-F Berube gave up two goals on his first five shots before stopping 27 straight. It was the 14th time the Blackhawks allowed five or more goals in a game this season, having done that only eight times last season.

Needless to say, it's been a roller coaster in goal as of late.

To make matters worse, the Blackhawks aren't as optimistic about Corey Crawford returning before the season ends and maybe that's for the better.

But there's a big question mark between the pipes when you factor in Crawford's health and the inconsistency from their backups, which has included Jeff Glass, Forsberg and Berube.

The Blackhawks weren't expecting Forsberg to be the next Scott Darling when they included him in the trade package involving Saad and Artemi Panarin this past offseason, but they were certainly hoping he would be around the league average in save percentage (.913).

Instead, it's slipped to .905, which ranks 43rd of 52 goaltenders that have started at least 20 games this season. That's also his 5-on-5 save percentage, which is 49th out of 52 among goalies with 800-plus minutes of ice time.

When it rains, it often pours with Forsberg in net and he hasn't shown signs of progression to prevent the bleeding from getting worse.

The backup goaltending position is more important than ever in this day and age, especially for the Blackhawks with Crawford likely going into next year having not faced a shot in game action in nine months.

For those reasons, it might be wise for the Blackhawks to strongly consider rolling with Berube as the No. 2 to at least start next season if an external option isn't the preferred direction.

It would allow Forsberg to fine-tune his mechanics, build his confidence and continue his overall development with the Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League, where he backstopped the Lake Erie Monsters to their first ever Calder Cup championship in Columbus Blue Jackets franchise history two years ago.

Berube and Forsberg are both under contract for the Blackhawks in 2018-19, and it's no secret there's a belief within the organization that Forsberg has a higher ceiling. He just hasn't been able to reach it yet in the NHL for whatever reason.

There are 11 games left, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Berube get more than half of those.

Yes, his save percentage is one percentage point below Forsberg's at .904. But three of his eight appearances have come in relief.

In his five starts, he has a .908 percentage; in his three relief appearances, it's at .893.

Berube deserves a longer look, one that could carry weight when determining next season's backup.