Blackhawks

Blackhawks capitalize in 'low-chance affair' as Crawford blanks Sens

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Blackhawks capitalize in 'low-chance affair' as Crawford blanks Sens

Duncan Keith was just trying to get Jonathan Toews’ attention as quickly as possible.

“I was just calling for (the puck) as loud as I could and hopefully Toews would get it to me,” Keith said. “He did, and I just tried to get it on net.”

He did, and it proved to be the game winner.

Keith scored his seventh goal of the season and Corey Crawford stopped 26 shots for his sixth shutout this season as the Blackhawks beat the Ottawa Senators, 3-0, on Sunday night. The Blackhawks have now won three in a row and jumped ahead of St. Louis to second in the Central Division.

Artem Anisimov scored his 15th goal of the season and third in as many games. Andrew Desjardins added an empty-net goal; Desjardins now has four goals and an assist in his last three games.

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On a night when there wasn’t a lot of flow and weren’t a lot of scoring opportunities, the Blackhawks had to take advantage of whatever chances they got.

“Yeah, we’ll take a win,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Certainly it was definitely a low-chance affair tonight, just the opposite of when we saw them in Ottawa, when it was up and down the ice with high quality at both ends. It’s probably the respect of knowing they’re dangerous off the rush, and they’re thinking the same way against us. It was hard to generate any kind of flow or offensive-zone opportunities. Duncs got a nice goal for us and loosened things up a bit.”

Anisimov scored off a Michal Rozsival rebound to give the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead six minutes into the third period. Desjardins added his empty-net goal with 47.9 seconds remaining in regulation.

“Obviously it’s nice to see Desi get some goals here lately. But any time you get that secondary scoring or guys like Desi chipping in on the offense, it helps our team so much,” Keith said. “Getting that empty-netter was a relief. Otherwise, they still feel they’re in it.”

Crawford, meanwhile, got the 18th shutout of his career. It wasn’t Crawford’s busiest night shot-wise, but one in which his focus was there from start to finish regardless.

“He wasn’t tested early, and sporadically they came at him,” Quenneville said. “But he’s been doing a good job for us.”

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Crawford, who played in his 300th career game on Sunday, said he’s learned plenty in his last few seasons with the Blackhawks.

“Every year that’s the goal is to be predictable, consistent and give your team confidence going into games knowing what they’re going to get,” he said. “That’s definitely an important thing for a goaltender.”

The Blackhawks like how they’re doing as they near the midway point of the season. They’ve had some tricky moments, but they’re finding the right combinations and finding ways to win. They’re also finding each other on the ice at critical times, much like Toews did with Keith on Sunday.

“I don’t think we’re ever really satisfied with where we’re at, but we’ve improved from where we started. Having said that, we know there’s lots more room for improvement in what we want to do as a team and how we need to play,” Keith said. “It’s good there are lots of games left to do that.”

Corey Crawford expects to make season debut for Blackhawks on Thursday vs. Arizona

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USA TODAY

Corey Crawford expects to make season debut for Blackhawks on Thursday vs. Arizona

The wait is almost over.

After missing nearly 10 months with a concussion, Corey Crawford said he expects to start on Thursday when the Blackhawks take on the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center. An official decision will come following the team's morning skate.

"It feels good to be back to myself," Crawford said. "I'm feeling good, I'm feeling clear. ... It was a pretty long process. But I think the most important thing was not to rush anything. When I finally was out, it got to a point where I wasn’t in shape to play and it was time to rest and it’s unfortunate it took a lot longer than I would’ve liked. 

"It’s been long, but finally, just to get back and be practicing with the team has meant a lot. It’s good to get to this point now when you’re really close to playing. Practices have been great, been getting timing a little bit more and getting up to speed and reading shots and all that, so it'll be nice to finally get in one."

Crawford's last appearance in an NHL game was Dec. 23, 2017 against the New Jersey Devils when he allowed three goals on seven shots in 13:22 of action before getting pulled. So of course, emotions will naturally be running high, especially in front of the hometown crowd.

"I'm sure I'll be a little anxious getting into it," Crawford said. "Some nerves. But we'll see. We'll wait until the morning, but I'm definitely excited I can tell you that."

It's obviously terrific news for the Blackhawks, who have picked up eight out of a possible 10 points to start the season and are getting their two-time Stanley Cup winning goalie back between the pipes. It's been a long time coming, and Crawford is coming back into a healthy situation where the Blackhawks are in a good spot in the standings.

"It's great news, I'm sure it'll be exciting for him exciting for our team, exciting for our fans and the organization as well," Patrick Kane said. "It’s probably a good situation all around. Cam [Ward] has done a great job of playing in the net so far. Crow is really good in practice right now, so I’m sure he’s itching to get back, too. We’ve had a good start here. It’s something we want to keep going, and I’m sure him coming back on home ice, in front of our crowd, will be a fun one for him and for our team."

There's no doubting how important Crawford is the team and organization. While there may be a little bit of rust early on, the Blackhawks are expecting him to look like his old self.

"He means a lot to the team," Quenneville said. "We felt last year was a good example of how important he was and how well he was playing for us, as well. We’ve gotten off to a decent start and he was a big factor in it. We know that goaltending is such a big part of the team and your success a lot of nights depends on him and his consistency’s always been in place.

"But he looks good in the net. He’s been off for a long, long time. Is there rust? Do we expect rust? I think the way he’s competing and practicing and finding pucks, he looks like he hasn’t missed a beat. So we’re looking forward to him getting in there and getting comfortable and how he’s feeling going forward will dictate a lot of the decisions about him going back in."

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Charlie Roumeliotis and Slavko Bekovic provide their thoughts on the Blackhawks’ 3-0-2 start.

They also discuss Brandon Saad’s demotion and whether it could serve as a wake-up call, Corey Crawford’s potential return on Thursday vs. Arizona and what could happen with Anton Forsberg because of it, and address the power play concerns.

The guys wrap up the podcast by making a few bold predictions going forward.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!