Blackhawks

Artemi Panarin lifts Blackhawks past Islanders in shootout for sixth straight win

Artemi Panarin lifts Blackhawks past Islanders in shootout for sixth straight win

The Blackhawks weren't in their usual rhythm or playing at their usual pace on Friday night. Injuries were to blame for some of that. So were the New York Islanders, who are fighting for a playoff spot.

But as the third period wore on the Blackhawks were looking like themselves again. And after a few extra minutes' worth they were pulling out another one.

Artemi Panarin scored his 20th goal of the season to tie it late in regulation and Corey Crawford stopped 31 of 32 as the Blackhawks came back to beat the Islanders 2-1 in a shootout on Friday night. The Blackhawks have now won 11 of their last 12, including six in a row, and are one point behind the Minnesota Wild.

Jonathan Toews notched the shootout winner for the Blackhawks, who were missing Artem Anisimov (lower body), Nick Schmaltz (illness), Johnny Oduya (ankle) and Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper body). Now for the next three weeks they'll be without Scott Darling, who got hurt late in Friday morning's skate. A source said Darling suffered a hand injury.

The Blackhawks took a time out late in the third period, a period in which they dominated. After the Islanders boxed them out and blocked 20 shots through 40 minutes, the Blackhawks were finally getting inside. Still, Thomas Greiss was stellar, stopping 30 of 31 shots, including 14 of 15 in the third period. Panarin, however, finally got one through traffic with 1:14 remaining in regulation to tie it.

"No doubt that we have the guys to step up, make up for the loss of a few key players tonight," Toews said. "Collectively, the first 40 wasn't our best. I don't think we were playing with the speed and energy we have as of late. But we stay within one, we always know if we put some pressure on the end there's always a chance to stay in that game. Great goaltending, decent defensive play to keep us in that game as well."

Crawford looked very good in his first start since Feb. 23 – he had been ill at the end of last month. The only shot that eluded him was Brock Nelson's 2-on-1 break following the Blackhawks' second power play.

"Felt better and better as the game went on. The one goal, it was a squeaker. But I felt pretty sharp out there," Crawford said. "Thought we played well all game. We just kept playing hard, never gave up. Nice to see Bread Man get a big shot there."

Toews' shot claimed the shootout but Panarin also got one to seal it. As for his game-tying goal, Panarin looked as relieved as he did happy to get it.

"I think top players, they like scoring, making plays, getting production. But I still think there's production there between him and [Patrick Kane]. Whether he's scoring or not there's a threat and you still have to be aware of them on the ice. They have the puck a lot, present some cycle shifts that are tough to defend."

The Blackhawks were down a few players. They could get Anisimov and Schmaltz back on Saturday in Nashville. But they've gone through this all season and for the most part, they've found ways to keep getting points. 

"You're not always going to be up in every game. It's not always going to go our way," Crawford said. "We have to battle back in some games and we showed some character tonight."
 

NHL Phase 2 target time and guidelines firming up for Return to Play

NHL Phase 2 target time and guidelines firming up for Return to Play

On Monday morning, The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun reported that the NHL and NHLPA sent out a protocol for Phase 2, which includes team practice facilities opening up and small group workouts beginning, that spanned 29 pages and was sent to players and teams late Sunday night.

The memo stated the NHL is planning on transitioning to Phase 2 in early June but the league isn't sure specifically when and how long the camps may last according to LeBrun.

The document also stressed player participation in Phase 2 is voluntary as teams can't require players to travel back to the home ice cities. 

Per LeBrun, the agreement also states no more than six players are permitted to be at a practice facility at one time and no coaches or other team personnel are allowed on the ice. 

Players will be required to wear face coverings while entering and leaving facilities and inside facilities during times when "social distancing cannot be maintained.''

For testing during Phase 2, LeBrun tweeted the following excerpt from the memo:

"As an over-riding principle, testing of asymptomatic Players and Club personnel must be done in the context of excess testing capacity, so as to not deprive health care workers, vulnerable populations and symptomatic individuals from necessary diagnostic tests.''

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Blackhawks 2019-20 season in review: Corey Crawford

Blackhawks 2019-20 season in review: Corey Crawford

The NHL put its 2019-20 season on pause March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but remains hopeful to award the Stanley Cup at some point. Although it's unclear if or when it could return, NBC Sports Chicago will recap the season of each Blackhawks player to date in our "season in review" series. Next up is Corey Crawford.

One of the most intriguing storylines going into Blackhawks training camp this season was how the goaltending tandem would work between Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner, both of whom were going to be pending unrestricted free agents at the end of the season.

You have a two-time Stanley Cup champion on one end and a reigning Vezina Trophy finalist on another and each of them deserved their fair share of starts. It's a good problem to have if you're a coach, but the other part of the challenge is trying to keep both netminders happy.

"They both want to play 60 games, 80 games maybe,” head coach Jeremy Colliton said in November. “That's part of the team. [Patrick Kane] wants to play 60 minutes. It's how it is. Ultimately, we want to make decisions that help the team win and part of that is keeping both guys fresh, keeping both guys playing at a high level and I think that's going to be a benefit for us as the season goes on."

For most of the season, it worked.

Going into the NHL All-Star break, the Blackhawks had the sixth-best team save percentage at .913; Lehner led the way at .922 and Crawford was at .910. But coming out of the break, Crawford was lights out and Lehner was dealt to the Vegas Golden Knights at the Feb. 24 trade deadline.

From Jan. 27 and on, Crawford went 7-7-1 with a 2.46 goals-against average, .927 save percentage, 7.60 goals saved above average and 9.76 high-danger goals saved above average, which ranked No. 1 among all goaltenders over that span, according to Natural Stat Trick. He clearly got into a rhythm the more starts he got and kept the Blackhawks in the playoff race down the stretch.

"He’s been excellent, coming up with big saves when we needed them," Colliton said of Crawford at the beginning of March. "He’s been excellent for a while now. I’d have to really work to go back to find one where we didn’t like his play. It’s a big boost for our group."

With the NHL Players' Association signing off over the weekend on the NHL's proposed 24-team return-to-play format, the Blackhawks will have an opportunity to compete for a playoff spot when hockey returns. And if Crawford can get back to the level he was at before the NHL pause, don't count out the Blackhawks to catch lightning in a bottle.

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