Blackhawks

What does Robin Lehner's signing mean for Corey Crawford's future with Blackhawks?

What does Robin Lehner's signing mean for Corey Crawford's future with Blackhawks?

When reports surfaced on social media that the Blackhawks were closing in on a deal with goaltender Robin Lehner, the immediate reaction among the Chicago fanbase was: 'Huh?!'

And then it quickly turned into: Wait, what does this mean for Corey Crawford's future with the Blackhawks?

In the short term, the addition of Lehner is mostly about the Blackhawks wanting to go into next season with a dependable 1-2 tandem between the pipes. It's been a while since they've had that, and recent history shows that easing the workload of your starting goaltender in the regular season pays dividends during the stretch run and Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“It’s the most important position in the game,” GM Stan Bowman said on Monday. “Looking back on the last few years, it’s certainly been hard to weather the storm when injuries are part of the game. I think we have the best 1-2 punch in the league is the way I look at it right now. I certainly feel really comfortable going into next season, whether Corey Crawford’s in net or Robin Lehner’s in net. We've got two high-end goaltenders.”

But it's also no secret that Crawford has missed an extended period of time on two separate occasions over the last couple seasons due to concussions and he’s entering the final year of his contract that carries a cap hit of $6 million.

There’s no debating that, when healthy, Crawford is still one of the top goaltenders in the game, even as he approaches 35 years old. But the best kind of ability is availability, so can the Blackhawks trust that he'll be there when they need him the most beyond next season?

Lehner is not just some other goaltender you bring in strictly as an insurance policy. Cam Ward was an insurance policy. Lehner is a reigning Vezina Trophy finalist, somebody that registered a 2.13 goals against average, .930 save percentage and six shutouts last season. If he turns in another strong season, Lehner will be looking to cash out on a long-term deal at 28 years old and entering the prime of his NHL career.

What the Blackhawks have to at least be wondering, whether they like it or not, is whether that could be in Chicago.

While the Blackhawks don't have to make a decision on Crawford's future — or Lehner's — until next summer, the 2019-20 campaign is a massive one in terms of how the goaltending situation could play out after this season. If Crawford goes a full season unscathed, is that enough for the Blackhawks to feel comfortable about signing him to an extension?

The thought of preparing for life without Crawford must undoubtedly be an uncomfortable feeling for the Blackhawks because he's a big-time goalie when healthy and probably still has a lot of hockey mileage left in him. But the Blackhawks have to start doing so not because they want to, but because they might need to.

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Takeaways from first three days of Blackhawks training camp

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Chicago Blackhawks

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Takeaways from first three days of Blackhawks training camp

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis break down the first three days of training camp.

Which players have stood out so far and how will the injuries to Kirby Dach and Calvin de Haan impact the final roster?

The guys also discuss Jonathan Toews being motivated by an NHL Network snub and their feelings about the relationship between Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner.

0:45 - Fan support at Training Camp Festival 

1:45 - Impressions of Wedin-Toews-Nylander line

2:35 - Olli Maatta getting offensive 

4:00 - Aleksi Saarela impact

5:00 - Andrew Shaw at center

6:00 - Will Kris Versteeg get another spin with Blackhawks?

7:45 - Optimism at camp

10:15 - Kirby Dach injury

12:00 - What are Dach’s chances of making the team?

14:00 - Will Calvin de Haan be ready for season opener?

17:15 - Jeremy Colliton teaching D-zone 

19:00 - Adam Boqvist chances of making the team? 

20:15 - Jonathan Toews motivated by snub

24:15 - Crawford-Lehner relationship 

28:45 - Importance of three preseason games in three days

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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Blackhawks using first training camp under Jeremy Colliton to nail down defensive zone coverage

Blackhawks using first training camp under Jeremy Colliton to nail down defensive zone coverage

Jeremy Colliton has been the Blackhawks' head coach for more than 10 months now, but this is his first training camp with the team and he's able to instill some concepts that he wasn't able to do on the fly last season. The biggest thing, however, is that he was afforded a full summer to prep and can help get everyone on the same page during training camp and in the seven preseason games before the games actually matter.

"It's important," Duncan Keith said. "Systems nowadays, with the way teams are, it's important that everyone's on the same page. Having a training camp with the coaches and being able to implement the system and try to get on the same page early on, the quicker we can iron out everything the better off we're going to be."

The one area the Blackhawks have focused on heavily over the first two days is the defensive zone coverage. They gave up the most scoring chances and high-danger chances at 5-on-5 last season, and the team got better at it in the final month or so but it's still a work in progress.

"It's going to be huge," Patrick Kane said. "Even [Friday], first day we're running through some defensive coverage trying to get everything done tactically. I'm sure we'll do a little bit more of that each day and some different things as well. It'll be real beneficial for us just to all get on the same page, set the standard around here and feel confident about our team, the way we play going into the season."

The onus isn't just on the defensemen, either. It's a five-man unit and training camp is just as much about building trust with your teammates and being in the right spot as it is nailing down the scheme and letting it become muscle memory.

"We've all got to be on the same page," Brent Seabrook said. "If my D partner's doing it perfectly and I'm not, then we're not going to be any good at it. We've all got to be on the same page, we've all got to be doing our job and doing the right thing and the faster we get to that point, then I think it's just going to help us out in the long run. We're just going to keep getting better at it and we'll go from there."

The Blackhawks are going to continue working on their defensive zone coverage as camp goes along because that’s priority No. 1. Scoring goals won’t be an issue. And after Sunday’s training camp festival at the United Center, the Blackhawks have three consecutive preseason contests to apply what they've learned in a game-type setting.

"I just think getting guys on the same page as quickly as we can, that's really important,” Colliton said. “You saw there was a lot of D-zone work today [Friday]. That'll continue and we'll just sort of roll out how we're going to play day-by-day so that we're ready. We got that festival game, that will kind of be a dress rehearsal and then right into it."

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