Blackhawks

Five Things: Corey Crawford stays hot in Blackhawks win

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Five Things: Corey Crawford stays hot in Blackhawks win

PITTSBURGH – Hey, you weren’t expecting the Blackhawks-Pittsburgh Penguins game to end in ho-hum fashion, were you?

This is Pittsburgh, where Blackhawks’ potential regulation victories always go to die. But a little 3-on-3 never hurt anyone, and it certainly didn’t hurt the Blackhawks in their 3-2 victory over the Penguins on Tuesday night. And just in case you didn’t get enough excitement on Tuesday, these two are right back at it again on Wednesday.

But before we get to part 2 of the home-and-home, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory on Tuesday.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

1. Spurned in regulation again. The Blackhawks’ last regulation victory in Pittsburgh came on Feb. 22, 1997 at the old Civic Arena. Well, we can’t blame the building because the Blackhawks can’t win in regulation in the new CONSOL Energy Center, either. We’ve grown accustomed to the Blackhawks, when staked to a lead after 40 minutes, to automatically winning in regulation. But all usual events get thrown out in Pittsburgh.

2. 3-on-3 is fun. OK, we admit it: we’re hooked. There’s obviously a gimmicky side to this new overtime format but anything that helps us avoid shootouts is welcome. And if you like being entertained to any degree, you loved the three-plus minute overtime between the Penguins and Blackhawks on Tuesday. Two great teams full of talented and skilled players, and all on display in those few minutes. As coach Joel Quenneville said, this overtime format “is great for the sport.”

3. Artemi Panarin is stealth. Quenneville said the young Russian was “ordinary” most of Tuesday’s game. But he gave full marks to Panarin’s two goals and to his game through the first half of this season. Panarin is still rounding into form in some areas of his game but when he does get a chance at a shot, there’s little hesitation and plenty of confidence. Said Duncan Keith, “he’s got a great shot. I think he showed that tonight. He’s been a big addition to our team.”

[MORE: WATCH: Artemi Panarin scores game-winning OT goal in Blackhawks win

4. Go with Corey Crawford again on Wednesday? It’s a question Quenneville will have to seriously ponder as Crawford stopped 34 of 36 shots, including five in overtime, in Tuesday’s victory. Crawford has been great. Scott Darling has struggled, but the Blackhawks need to get their backup goaltender going, get him confident again. So who to start?

5. Sidney Crosby is still Sidney Crosby. The Penguins star was questioned earlier this season, when he was struggling offensively. Well, he’s not struggling anymore. Crosby had a goal and an assist on Tuesday, giving him six goals and six assists in his last eight games. Even Crawford had to give Crosby credit on his third-period snipe. “It’s a good shot,” he said. “I didn’t really pick it up that great, but it was a pretty quick release and a quick shot. I guess you just have to forget about that one. Guys are going to make nice shots some times.” Especially that guy.

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

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USA TODAY

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?

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USA TODAY

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.