Blackhawks

Blackhawks confident in one-two punch of Crawford, Darling

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Blackhawks confident in one-two punch of Crawford, Darling

There were plenty of changes for the Blackhawks this offseason, mainly among the forward and defenseman groups. Uncertainty usually accompanies change, and the Blackhawks will work through that as they have in the past.

But when it comes to the Blackhawks’ goaltending, coach Joel Quenneville is pretty sure of what he’s got.

“There was some uncertainty there in the past,” he said. “And now we’re probably as comfortable as we’ve been with our goaltenders, one-two, starting the season.”

Corey Crawford and Scott Darling made a great tandem down the stretch and both are looking to start the 2015-16 season strong. For Crawford, it’s building off a second Stanley Cup and second William Jennings Trophy — he shared last season’s honor with Carey Price and shared the 2012-13 award with former teammate Ray Emery. For Darling, it’s prepping for a sophomore season after an impressive 2014-15.

“Well, I think both guys proved they can play, and both played meaningful games for us down the stretch,” Quenneville said. “Darls came a long way over the course of a season; it looks like he’s taking off from that note and wants to get better. I think there’s healthy competition and good support through each other as well.”

[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Teravainen likely to start season at wing]

Crawford and Darling have formed a good bond on and off the ice. The competition, however, remains.

“We push each other, we work together to make each other better,” Crawford said. “We talk about other teams’ players, our technique, pretty much anything. It’s good to have that communication between us and with Jimmy (Waite, Blackhawks goaltending coach), too. We have to be a team back there and work on ways to — not necessarily make it easier, but find ways where it’s more efficient to stop the puck. We’re both excited, and we both feel pushing each other makes us that much better, too.”

Darling said Crawford is another “coach” for him.

“He’s a little easier on me than Jimmy,” Darling said. “But just learning from him and watching how he prepares and plays game in and game out has been helpful for my career. There’s no better mentor to have.”

It was a short summer for all of the returning Blackhawks, including the goaltenders. For Crawford, this is his second quick offseason turnaround. But he said he budgeted his off time the right way.

“The training was there, no question; I didn’t miss any of that. I took just enough time (off), mentally and physically, and then it was back to work. You don’t want to miss too much time because it gets harder and harder to start back up as the years go on,” Crawford said with a smile. “Hockey-wise in the summer, it’s the same thing. That nice mental break helps when you’re coming into camp fresh. Your mind’s fresh and you’re hungry to be on the ice and start playing again.”

[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Panarin more at ease after preseason debut]

Darling had enough trial-by-fire moments last season that nothing should surprise him entering this one. If there was any question of Darling’s ability to handle the pressure, it was answered in that first-round series against the Nashville Predators.

“I had a lot of growing experiences last season, whether it was getting multiple starts in a row or not playing for a long time and then having to go in. And the playoffs were obviously huge for me,” Darling said. “That gives me confidence going forward, to know I can do it. I’ve done it before, so I just have to build off that.”

Speaking of confidence, considering how much Quenneville has in Crawford and Darling, don’t be surprised if the starts are more divided between the two.

“It’s not etched in stone how much or who’s going to play, but I think we expect them both to be regularly playing and keep them both fresh as possible as well,” Quenneville said. “We like our goaltending situation.”

The Blackhawks had their share of summer changes. Goaltending wasn’t one of them, and the Blackhawks are assured in that familiarity.

“I just think whoever’s playing gives us the confidence we need in our defensive game. If something goes wrong, they’ll do everything they can to stop the puck,” Marcus Kruger said. “They just give us that confidence, and we know they’ll give us a good chance to win every night. That’s huge to have two goalies like that.”

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks show urgency vs. the undefeated

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USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks show urgency vs. the undefeated

The Blackhawks finally got on the board for the season and did so in front of the 500th consecutive capacity crowd at the United Center.

Pat Boyle, Jamal Mayers and Charlie Roumeliotis break down the impressive performance by the Blackhawks against the undefeated Edmonton Oilers and discuss how Jeremy Colliton’s message got through to Alex Nylander and the rest of the team.

Plus, after an impressive performance in net, should Corey Crawford get the next game vs. the Blue Jackets? And what does the future have in store for Kirby Dach? Jamal makes a bold prediction.

0:54 – Blackhawks finally show urgency in 2nd period

2:47 – Penalty kill starting to show some life

5:00 – Thoughts on the Shaw/Strome/Kane line

6:43 – Blackhawks eliminating some defensive breakdowns

9:23 – Big rebound performance from Corey Crawford

11:36 – Colliton’s message to Alex Nylander got through

15:21 – Brandon Saad has been a pleasant surprise early on

17:15 – Dominik Kubalik’s impressive performance

18:31 – Will Kirby Dach be with the Blackhawks all season?

22:42 – Does Crawford or Lehner start vs. the Blue Jackets?

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

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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Four takeaways: Corey Crawford shines in Blackhawks first win of the season

Four takeaways: Corey Crawford shines in Blackhawks first win of the season

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers at the United Center on Monday:

1. Blackhawks are in the win column

The Blackhawks said after morning skate that they weren't going to "freak out" about their 0-2-1 start despite talking all training camp long about how they didn't want to dig a hole in October. Still, Monday felt like a game they had to win going into a three-day break because they have to start generating some positive vibes within the locker room.

And they did just that.

The Blackhawks handed the Oilers their first loss of the season (5-1-0), but more importantly, they're finally in the win column for the 2019-20 campaign.

"We played really well," Corey Crawford said. "I think everyone was going. Guys were coming back to help out defensively, and just a good team effort. The PK was strong, even though we gave up that one [late], it was strong early in the game. Just nice to win the first one."

2. Second period? That's more like it

The Blackhawks have been happy with their first periods this season. They've been mostly happy with their thirds. It's the middle frame that's been their downfall.

The team addressed those struggles as a team the morning of the game, and they certainly responded.

According to Natural Stat Trick, the Blackhawks led in shot attempts (32-8), even-strength scoring chances (16-6), even-strength high danger chances (5-4) and, of course, the goal column (1-0) in the second period. That's more like it.

"That was the message today from the coaches was how much better we need to be in the second," Connor Murphy said. "We showed examples of when we've done that in the past and what it takes. I think we were just better at staying on our toes and we drew some penalties and got on the forecheck quick and kept their goalie from being able to make plays and for them to be able to come up ice."

3. Corey Crawford shines

You could've made a good argument that Robin Lehner should've started this game, especially coming off a solid outing on Saturday and his career numbers against the Oilers (5-1-2 with a 1.86 goals-against average and .943 save percentage). But the coaching staff went with Crawford and it proved to be the correct decision.

Crawford stopped 27 of 28 shots for a save percentage of .964 and faced nine high-danger chances at 5-on-5, none of which found the back of the net. His lone goal against came with 2:11 left in regulation and it was on a 6-on-4 power play for the Oilers. Overall, he was fantastic.

"He looked sharp as ever," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "He was really good. He did make some saves for us. That team has some weapons so they had some opportunities and he was there and just he's under control. It's something I've said about him before, he really gives the team confidence. I thought tonight he was really good."

4. Blackhawks shut down Oilers' top guns

The first line of Leon Draisaitl, Zack Kassian and Connor McDavid went into Monday tied for the most goals scored as a trio. When the three of them are on the ice at 5-on-5, they're controlling 57.1 percent of the shot attempts, 61.2 percent of the scoring chances and 68.8 percent of the high danger chances.

The Blackhawks held them in check. That line had 14 shot attempts for and 20 against at 5-on-5 and were on the ice for 11 scoring chances. The third line of David Kampf, Dominik Kubalik and Brandon Saad did a terrific job of shutting them down.

"They all just got real big motors, big engine," Colliton said of the Saad-Kampf-Kubalik line. "They work and compete and they all bring a little bit different ingredient. ... Pleased with that line."

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