Blackhawks

Corey Crawford welcomes healthy competition with Robin Lehner: 'It's a good situation for us'

Corey Crawford welcomes healthy competition with Robin Lehner: 'It's a good situation for us'

When the Blackhawks signed Robin Lehner to a one-year deal on July 1, everyone’s immediate thought was: What does this mean for Corey Crawford and how will the dynamic work?

When healthy, we're talking about two Vezina Trophy-caliber goaltenders. And now they somehow have to share the crease without feeling like they're competing for the same job, even though they are.

Lehner has said from the beginning that he didn't sign with the Blackhawks to take anyone's job. He came to Chicago to win and has expressed excitement about working alongside Crawford every day.

"We've talked," Lehner said. "He's a great guy and a great goaltender. This year, it's a team that wants to make the playoffs again and we want to win, so you have to earn your starts and that's what it's all about."  

Crawford spoke on Friday for the first time since the Lehner signing and he shared similar feelings.

"We practiced a couple times [together] before the camp started," Crawford said. "He's a pretty easygoing guy and he's a really good goaltender, obviously. That just helps our team. Some good competition between us and we'll push each other to be at our best, so it's a good situation for us."

In today's NHL, teams need two legit goaltenders because they want their starters fresh for the stretch run and Stanley Cup Playoffs and the only way to do that is to manage their workload during the regular season. The Blackhawks find themselves in a situation where they have one of the most formidable goaltending tandems in the league.

Crawford, when healthy, has typically received in between 55-58 starts per season throughout his NHL career. That's an ideal range. But if we see the split closer to 50/50 with Crawford and Lehner, that comes out to 41 starts each and, while both goalies would certainly be fresh all season, Crawford prefers having more reps because it helps him get into a rhythm.

"Personally, I feel better when I play more," Crawford admitted. "The game conditioning is there, little details. But I'm prepared to do whatever. Whenever he calls me to go in the net, I'll be there."

The decision is ultimately going to come down to Jeremy Colliton and the coaching staff to divide up the starts, but that's impossible to do before the season begins because things can change quickly. The hope is that Crawford and Lehner will make the decision tough on them because that would likely mean both of them are playing well enough to deserve the starter's net.

"It's hard to say before the season starts," Crawford said. "We don't know how it's going to play out. I'm sure there's going to be points where both guys are going to have hot streaks, so that's in the hands of our coach. Jeremy is going to have to decide who to go with and don't be afraid with just rolling with a guy if he's playing well. But really, it's up to him and our job is to try to be at our best and push each other."

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Are the Blackhawks a playoff team?

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USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Are the Blackhawks a playoff team?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Adam Burish and Charlie Roumeliotis break down the loss to the Hurricanes, possible changes to the power play, and how Charlie may be partially responsible for Erik Gustafsson's goal scoring streak.

01:30 Looking at the loss to the Hurricanes

05:00 On coming to Kane's defense after hard hit late in the game

06:30 Lehner's assessment of the team

08:30 Are the Blackhawks a playoff team?

11:00 Should there be changes to the Blackhawks power play

13:30 Gustafsson and other defensemen generating offense

19:00 Is great goaltending masking some of the team's offensive problems

22:00 Adam's favorite moments from his honeymoon's travels

24:30 Charlie's gambling adventures in Las Vegas

Listen here or in the embedded player below. 

 

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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Four takeaways: Blackhawks make late push but fall to Hurricanes

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USA Today

Four takeaways: Blackhawks make late push but fall to Hurricanes

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes at the United Center on Tuesday:

1. Winning streak comes to a halt

The Blackhawks had picked up at least a point in eight of their past nine games and had the second-most points out of any team in November going into Tuesday's matchup. But they laid an egg against the Hurricanes, at least for the first 40 minutes.

The Hurricanes dominated the Blackhawks in every offensive category through two periods, including shot attempts (48-33), shots on goal (27-12), even-strength scoring chances (24-13) and even-strength high-danger chances (9-3), according to Natural Stat Trick. They also scored the first three goals of the game.

The Blackhawks made a big push in the third period by outshooting the Hurricanes 20-6 and scoring two goals in a span of 1:10, but they couldn't get that third one.

"Two bad periods, one good one," Lehner said. "We've been playing pretty good. Just gotta go win the next one. Don't lose two in a row. We're fine. We're fine. Everyone's just got to be a little bit better. I let in a bad goal and bad timing on the second one. Got a little bit unlucky. We've just got to try to get that push and we had a push. Unfortunately we couldn't tie it up."

2. A slow start

After scoring the first two goals in five of the past six games, the Blackhawks got off to a slow start and dug themselves too big of a hole to overcome. They registered only four shots on goal in the first period and allowed the Hurricanes to score three straight to open the game, with the second goal coming 53 seconds into the middle frame.

The first goal of the game came on a 2-on-0 in which Lehner had no chance of stopping. It could've been a much more lopsided first period on the scoresheet, with the Hurricanes generating 13 scoring chances to the Blackhawks' three.

"Obviously, disappointed in the first two periods, the result of the game of course, but we didn't have a good start and I thought we got worse in the second so that was disappointing," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I liked that we didn't quit, that was a positive, and I liked that we showed some fight in the third and we got going and put a scare into them.

"But it's frustrating because we showed that was a winnable game if we played, if we turned on a little bit earlier. We've had a good stretch and that was a setback and now we've got to respond on Thursday."

3. Too little, too late

Since the calendar flipped to November, no team had scored more goals than the Blackhawks (36) going into Tuesday. They had 21 goals in their previous four contests for an average of 5.25 goals per game.

It didn't look like the Blackhawks had much hope until the third period when they peppered the Hurricanes with 32 shot attempts, 19 scoring chances and 13 high-danger chances. Erik Gustafsson and Connor Murphy scored within a span of 1:10 to pull the Blackhawks within one, but it was too little, too late for the offense.

"We were just hungry," Murphy said of the third period. "We were embarrassed at home to give up the chances that we did and to get outplayed for a lot of it just as far as the races and seemed like a lot of those battles. We knew at home we wanted this year to be a prideful team and we have guys that want to push to make sure that we can come back. We know the power that we have, we can score three goals and we almost did."

4. Rough night for DeBrincat-Strome-Kane line

The Blackhawks' second line of Alex DeBrincat, Patrick Kane and Dylan Strome has been lights out since being reunited on Nov. 2 against Anaheim. But it had a tough night together vs. Carolina. 

When the three of them were on the ice at even strength, the Blackhawks had three shot attempts for and 14 against, two shots on goal for and nine against, three scoring chances for and six against and one high-danger chance for and two against in 8:45 of ice time. 

They were separated in the third period with Kirby Dach taking Strome's place on the second line, and the line changes sparked the entire team. Kane recorded two primary assists in the third period to extend his season-long point streak to 10 games, marking his sixth career NHL point streak of at least 10 games. Only Denis Savard has more (13) in a Blackhawks sweater.

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