The Blackhawks' goaltending group had a great day on Monday.
Collin Delia inked a three-year contract extension that will keep him in Chicago through the 2021-22 season. And Corey Crawford practiced with the team in full for the first time, which was another significant step in his recovery.
"I feel great," Crawford said. "Back to normal. It's nice to get on the ice and practice with everyone. I'm feeling good, so that's the most important thing right now."
Crawford was placed in concussion protocol for the second time in a year when he smacked the back of his head on the post in a game against San Jose on Dec. 16. The first time kept him out for 10 months. This time around, it sidelined him for about two months.
"I had a few similar symptoms, but it was obviously a little bit quicker," Crawford said. "It was nice to not wait that long. But I don't know what to say, it's just try to stay patient, try and be confident that it won't last long. It's nice that it's back to normal."
Crawford acknowledged that at no point did he ever consider retiring from hockey. He's always been committed to playing and returning whenever doctors give him the green light.
"No, not at all," he said. "I was gonna come back as soon as I felt 100 percent. I'm not worried about that. It is what it is. Some guys have to do deal with other injuries, it's just what I had to deal with. I feel good, I feel ready, just going to work our way back into the lineup."
Working his way back into the lineup is going to be interesting.
The Blackhawks have won seven in a row, and have been getting terrific goaltending from Delia and Cam Ward. Nobody is happier about that than Crawford, who will be the first to tell you he wants to return as soon as possible. But there's no timeline set in stone just yet.
"I don't know, it's pretty tough to jump in right now," Crawford said smiling. "Deals and Wardo have been playing so well, we're on a pretty good streak right now. Obviously I would jump in the net right away, but honestly we haven't really discussed that at this point. We're just trying to figure out days when I could practice with the team and kind of get timing back. That'll come hopefully sooner than later."
It's trade deadline week. Rumors will begin to intensify around the NHL with teams finalizing which of their unrestricted free agents are available and which are not.
For example, there were 12 scouts/representatives at Monday's Blackhawks-Senators game in Chicago because Ottawa possesses two of the most coveted players on the market in Matt Duchene and Mark Stone. The Senators essentially hold all the cards. Once that big domino falls, the rest will follow, perhaps rather quickly.
But that's more for the buyers. What are the Blackhawks?
With another win on Monday, they pulled within one point of the final wild card spot and have important games on the horizon, most notably home tilts against Colorado and Dallas.
It’s unlikely the Blackhawks will be buyers. They’re not in a position yet to be giving up future draft picks or prospects for rentals, even if they find themselves sitting inside the playoff picture on trade deadline day Feb. 25. The question is, will they avoid being sellers?
The Blackhawks have three players on their current 23-man roster who are set to become UFAs this summer: Marcus Kruger, Chris Kunitz and Cam Ward.
Five will be restricted free agents: Carl Dahlstrom, Gustav Forsling, Slater Koekkoek, Brendan Perlini and Dylan Sikura. John Hayden, who has another year on his contract before he becomes a RFA, has drawn interest.
Some of those players could be appealing to teams trying to fill out their depth for a low price.
Artem Anisimov, whose name has been floated out there, is probably more likely to be moved in the summer when his modified no trade clause turns into nothing on July 1. He also will earn a $2 million signing bonus on July 1, meaning his remaining salary will be only $5 million but cap hit remains $4.55 million over the next two seasons. That may become an attractive type of contract to take on for a lower budget team trying to meet the floor because Anisimov can be an effective player in the right situation.
Perhaps the Blackhawks will stay the course and sell off their spare parts, gather futures and create roster spots for the young guys down the stretch. Or maybe they’ll stand pat and ride it out with this current group. The underwhelming depth of this year's Western Conference has allowed themselves to ask these questions they maybe didn’t think they’d have to answer.
"It's been an interesting year for sure," Patrick Kane said. "If you talked to a lot of us 15-20 games ago, you'd probably think we all thought we'd be out of playoffs or we'd have to go on some big runs and some crazy numbers to get ourselves in. It's pretty crazy how everything's unfolded here. But what a great position we're in — a few points behind a wild-card spot and we play some of these teams down the stretch, too. So it'll be an interesting finish to the season."Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.
Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 8-7 win over the Ottawa Senators at the United Center on Monday:
1. So, about that start...
If you were late getting to the game or flipping on the TV, you didn't miss much. Except maybe the wildest first period in recent memory.
The Blackhawks scored five goals on 15 shots for a shooting percentage of 33.3. The Senators scored four goals on 16 shots for a shooting percentage of 25.0. That's nine total goals on 31 shots.
Both goaltenders were pulled before the period ended, with Collin Delia (three goals allowed on 10 shots) being replaced for Cam Ward and former Blackhawks netminder Anders Nilsson (four goals allowed on 12 shots) being removed for Chicago native Craig Anderson.
Going into the game, the Blackhawks and Senators were tied for dead last with a goals against per game average of 3.64. So a high-scoring affair was expected. But not like this. This was as weird as it gets.
"Man, I think that’s probably what you would identify as a goalie nightmare, for both sides," Ward said. "That’s pretty crazy, to be honest with you. Obviously, the two points at the end of the night are the most important thing. But at the same time, we realize we can’t play like that if we want to be successful. But you take it for what it’s worth. The fans got the full value of their ticket tonight and it is what it is."
2. Slowing it down ... sort of
Things slowed down a little bit in the second period. Sort of. There weren't nine goals this time, but there was certainly action.
The Senators scored 1:32 into the middle frame to tie it up at 5-5, and you could almost hear the 22,338 fans sigh: "Here we go again." But the Blackhawks responded with a pair of goals in a span of 2:12 later on in the frame to put themselves up 7-5. And it turned out to be as close to a turning point as you can get in a back-and-forth game like this.
"It was a pretty crazy game," Alex DeBrincat said. "It felt more like a summer hockey game with that high scoring. It's good we got the win. That's all that matters. Move on from here."
3. Multi-point games for everyone
With an offensive explosion comes a loaded scoresheet.
Six Blackhawks had multi-point efforts: Alex DeBrincat (three goals, two assists), Patrick Kane (one goal, two assists), Duncan Keith (two assists), Brandon Saad (one goal, one assist), Dylan Strome (one goal, two assists) and Jonathan Toews (one goal, one assist).
Kane extended his point streak to 18 games, breaking the new mark for longest point streak by an NHL player this season. He also extended his assist streak to 17 games; Wayne Gretzky holds the all-time record at 23 games, set in 1990-91.
DeBrincat netted his fourth career NHL hat trick, and first career five-point games. With a three-goal game, he went from 17th to eighth among league leaders.
"I've seen him score a lot of goals," Strome said of DeBrincat. "He's obviously playing great hockey right now. He's doing a lot of great things. Really fun to play with obviously. Any time you get him the puck it's a one-timer or it's in. I said this a long time ago when people asked me, 'How do you think he's going to do in the NHL?' And I said, 'Really good.' We're having fun. Hockey is fun."
4. Defensive efforts
Fifteen goals were scored between the Blackhawks and Senators. Both goalies were pulled. There was a hat trick. It seemingly had everything.
But high-scoring affairs like this are a coach's nightmare. And it sure was.
There were 70 combined scoring chances (59 at 5-on-5) and 36 high-danger chances (32 at 5-on-5), according to naturalstattrick.com. That will unquestionably be the first thing they look at when reviewing the game tape.
"Didn't particularly enjoy it back there," coach Jeremy Colliton said from his vantage point. "If I was a player I probably would have. But it was important that we got the win. You don't want to be looking back at these games and wondering what if.
"It wasn't pretty defensively. Some nice goals and some high-end skills on both sides. We need the points, the most important thing is the points. Good news is we won when maybe we didn't have our best effort. So hopefully we'll respond with a better one with our next one."Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.