Blackhawks close out regular season with OT loss to Blue Jackets


Blackhawks close out regular season with OT loss to Blue Jackets

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin have made a dynamic duo throughout the Blackhawks’ season. On Saturday night, they enjoyed a couple of individual great moments.

Kane finalized his hold on the Art Ross Trophy and Panarin cashed in on performance bonuses during the Blackhawks’ 5-4 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday. The Blackhawks will most likely face the St. Louis Blues,

Kane and Panarin each had two goals and an assist to cap their stellar individual seasons. Kane finishes the regular season with 106 points to win the Art Ross Trophy, becoming the first American to do so. Panarin, who collected $2.575 million in performance bonuses if he finished top 10 among forwards in at least one of several categories (goals, assists, points or points per game), did so.

Corey Crawford, playing in his first game since March 14, allowed five goals on 25 shots.

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“Yeah, just get the speed [down]. That was a quick game,” said Crawford, who’s been out since mid-March with an upper-body injury. “It’s hard after missing some games to come in but… there are some things I thought I did well and obviously some other things that didn’t go too well. But it’s good to get in there and get a feel for it.”

For coach Joel Quenneville, getting Crawford back in this one was key, regardless of the outcome.

“He was fine. I think I didn’t mind some of the things we did out there today. But getting that game under his belt was the best thing for him and for us. It was a big step,” said Quenneville, who the turned attention to his second liners.

“There was some wow factor with the Bread Man and Kaner tonight that was fun to see,” he said. “They finished the year on an amazing note.”

The two ended the season much as they started it, feeding off each other and supplying plenty of points for the Blackhawks. Panarin finished with 30 goals; he’s the first Blackhawks rookie to do that since Eric Daze (1995-96). Kane said it was nice to see Panarin cash in — literally and figuratively.

[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Artemi Panarin to cash in on performance bonuses]

“Yeah, excited for him. That’s a great feat. And to be in the top 10 in scoring your rookie season’s pretty special,” Kane said. “I think with him, he’s going to be doing some special things as a Blackhawk down the road hopefully for a long time. It’s been a lot of fun playing with him, getting to know him. He’s a great kid, great personality, and I think the fans will enjoy watching him for a long time to come.”

For Kane, knowing his name will be on this year’s Art Ross Trophy, given to the league’s top scorer, is also special — more so given his nationality.

“It’s something I’ll really enjoy, take pride in playing for the U.S. and being an American kid. It was fun to break the point streak this year, and now to be the first American player to win the scoring title is pretty special in itself, too,” he said. “It was an exciting year and hopefully it’s a sign of things to come.”

The Blackhawks are through the regular season. Quenneville expects the team’s injured players — Marian Hossa (lower body), Andrew Shaw and Artem Anisimov (both upper) — to be ready for Game 1, whenever Game 1 is. Kane and Panarin have done some special things this season; now to see what they and the rest of the Blackhawks can do in the postseason.

How Blackhawks plan to handle Corey Crawford's workload

How Blackhawks plan to handle Corey Crawford's workload

Corey Crawford is back and it didn't look like he skipped much of a beat. The Blackhawks were handed their first regulation loss of the season to the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday, but the 33-year-old netminder stopped 27 of 30 shots (.900 save percentage) in his season debut and made several timely saves to keep his team in it.

In the larger picture, it was a win based on how well Crawford looked between the pipes.

"Yeah, I think it is," coach Joel Quenneville said after practice on Friday. "It's one of things we were wondering, how he would handle post-game and how he came in today. Very encouraging signs. He felt good in all aspects of what he went through and dealt with, and practiced well today too, so that was good."

The first one is in the books.

But what's the plan going forward? Will Crawford be on a "pitch count" or will they treat him like they have in past seasons when he was healthy?

In the past, Crawford has generally started somewhere in between 55-58 games per season. Part of that has been because of injuries. Another part is the Blackhawks have had reliable backups, which allowed them to give Crawford an extra night off here and there to keep him fresh.

It's not unreasonable, though, to think Crawford could flirt with 50 starts, considering he missed only five games to start the season. And they can still accomplish that by playing it safe.

The Blackhawks have 13 more back-to-backs this season, which gives them the opportunity to start Cam Ward at some point in each of them. That leaves room for another 15 or so starts to sprinkle in for Ward that could serve as rest days for Crawford and still being on track to start around 50.

Obviously, the Blackhawks want to be careful with how much they ask of Crawford because concussions are tricky to deal with and every player responds differently to it.

His return comes at a time where the Blackhawks are slated to play seven games in 11 days after playing just two in the previous 10. Thursday marked the start of that stretch.

"He’ll tell us how he feels and we’ll go from there and make those decisions," Quenneville said.

The Blackhawks have been on record saying they prefer not to carry three goaltenders. But in this case it makes sense. At least in the short term.

Quenneville said Friday that the Blackhawks will reevaluate the situation at the end of the weekend following the beginning of a busy stretch where they'll play three games in four days.

"Yeah, that’s the mindset," he said. "Let’s see how we handle these three in four and then we’ll address it."

Crawford is expected to start on Saturday in Columbus, making it his second start in three days. That's when they'll get a better sense of how he's handling things.

If it were up to him, Crawford said he feels he's prepared for it.

"Yeah, sure," Crawford said. "Why not? I've been working hard with [strength and conditioning coach Paul Goodman]. He's got me where I need to be, so I'm in shape right now. Why not?"

Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut


Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Jamal Mayers and Charlie Roumeliotis recap Corey Crawford’s season debut after missing nearly 10 months with a concussion.

Mayers talks about the Kitty system that Niklas Hjalmarsson and Vinnie Hinostroza probably dealt with in their returns to Chicago.

The guys also discuss what’s next for Crawford, the upcoming matchup against Artemi Panarin and the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Blackhawks’ biggest areas for improvement.

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