Blackhawks

The puck stops here: Corey Crawford nets second straight shutout for Blackhawks

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AP

The puck stops here: Corey Crawford nets second straight shutout for Blackhawks

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Blackhawks have been trending in the right direction in a few aspects of their game. Their power play still isn’t great, but it’s been responsible for the game-winning goal in two consecutive contests. Artem Anisimov, after a rough start, has a four-game goal streak which includes those two power-play goals.

But the constant remains Corey Crawford, who has gone from allowing very little to nothing at all.

Crawford’s been a big topic of conversation this season and for good reason. When the Blackhawks have sputtered he’s been stellar. That continued on Saturday night when Crawford recorded his second consecutive shutout, a 24-stop performance in the Blackhawks’ 2-0 victory over the Minnesota Wild.

Crawford now has a shutout streak of 131 minutes, 15 seconds; the last goal he gave up was to Colorado’s Rocco Grimaldi 8:45 into the Avalanche’s 6-3 victory over the Blackhawks on Oct. 28.

That’s all well and good for Crawford, but he still needs more help on the other side.

“He makes big saves, key times. We just need to help him out,” Anisimov said. “[Allow] less shots. Better defensive play, the whole team.”

No argument there. The Blackhawks allowed fewer shots but those they gave up were still pretty choice. Crawford started the third period stopping breakaways by Eric Staal and Jared Spurgeon. Nino Niederreiter thought he had a goal against Crawford in the first period – lights flashed and the horn blew – but the puck bounced off the post and went back to Crawford, who leg-swept it away.

“I saw it go off the post. You kind of know where [the puck] is, so sweep and hope for the best,” Crawford said. “I don’t know. A little luck, too, I guess.”

Sure, that never hurts. But most of Crawford’s work lately has been good, not lucky. As far as the Blackhawks’ offense, they’ve eked out enough; on Saturday it was Anisimov’s power-play goal and Alex DeBrincat’s empty-net goal. Not bad, but it could be better.

“We’d still like more production but at the same time the better you check the more offense you get off it,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I still don’t think we generated enough offense [vs. the Wild] but we didn’t mind the way we played without it. Some nights they go in.”

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: What else can the Blackhawks do this summer?

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: What else can the Blackhawks do this summer?

On the latest edition of the Hawks Talk Podcast, Charlie Roumeliotis is joined by Scott Powers of The Athletic to discuss Stan Bowman's comments following the Marian Hossa trade and debate whether they're finished making moves this summer.

They also provide their thoughts on the Blackhawks' top prospects and which players have caught their attention as development camp winds down.

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

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews: 'Our No. 1 goal is getting back to the playoffs'

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews: 'Our No. 1 goal is getting back to the playoffs'

Jonathan Toews watched a lot of playoff hockey this spring. 

"Quite a bit," he admitted Wednesday before making his Chicago Pro Hockey League debut at MB Ice Arena. "More than usual."

That's because the Blackhawks missed out on the postseason for the first time since his rookie year in 2007-08. It's obviously not a position he'd like himself or his team to be in, especially after experiencing three Stanley Cups in a six-year span.

But you have to find a way to take the positives out of it at this point and let it fuel you for the upcoming campaign.

"You always want to be there playing," Toews said. "But when you can maybe step away from the game a little bit and just kind of breathe and — at the same time, look back and realize you’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of success. Obviously there’s no satisfaction there, but you understand it’s not the worst thing to stop and smell the roses and appreciate what you’ve been able to experience, because I think failing to get to the playoffs makes you realize how difficult it really is and maybe it’s something you took for granted.

"But watching more hockey this spring, I think, is something that was really motivating and kind of inspiring and exciting to want to get back to that level again. You dream of playing in the NHL, but at the end of the day, you want to play playoff hockey. That’s what it’s all about."

There were plenty of things that went wrong for the Blackhawks last season and contributed to why they watched the playoffs from home, whether it's the Corey Crawford injury, the down season from Brandon Saad, or the inexperience on the blue line.

For Toews, who turned 30 in April, it's about regaining that old form that made him one of the top players in the NHL and hoping it can filter down the rest of the Blackhawks lineup.

"For me, it’s part of just recapturing that energy, that motivation, excitement and that mindset of a young player who takes nothing for granted, that you had in your younger days," he said. "But also carrying the experience with you and understanding the impact of what you say, what you do, how you carry yourself can impact your teammates, especially the young guys. For me, it comes down to knowing what to say at the right time. But letting my play be the thing that helps me lead by example. No better time than now to use that experience and that excitement trying to rebound off the season we had last year."

If there's any reason to have belief that the Blackhawks can turn it around quickly, look no further than the two teams that collided in the Stanley Cup Final: Vegas and Washington. 

The Golden Knights had the longest odds to win it all at the beginning of the season while the Capitals' championship window was perceived to be closed after they failed to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2017 in the second round yet again with a loaded roster. But it's not about what's on paper.

"Watching that last series, you just knew it came down to who had the most, the deepest belief in themselves," Toews said. "I even had a hard time predicting who was going to win every series. It could’ve gone either way in a lot of situations. It’s not only motivating, seeing how fast that play was and to have missed out on playoff hockey this year and to have the drive to get back there, but knowing if you do sneak into the playoffs it doesn’t matter. You can go a long way.

"For us, thinking, 'OK, we're gonna back and win a Stanley Cup this year,' it sounds like a long shot. But as always, our No. 1 goal is getting back to the playoffs and being ready to hit our stride when we get there."