Blackhawks continue prepping for 3-on-3 OT


Blackhawks continue prepping for 3-on-3 OT

Coach Joel Quenneville was giving his assessment of 3-on-3 so far this preseason, although some outings haven’t allotted him a good look.

“The other night the game ended so quickly I couldn’t get a good read on it,” he said about 3-on-3 vs. St. Louis on Saturday, which ended a minute into overtime.

The Blackhawks are like every other team in the NHL this preseason, acclimating themselves to 3-on-3 before it starts to count for a point during the regular season. The league implemented it in the hopes of reducing the number of shootouts.

Judging by preseason results, it’s having the desired effect. According to the league, of 17 necessary 3-on-3 overtimes thus far, 13 have been decided in that overtime.

[MORE: Artemi Panarin should practice with Blackhawks again soon

In the Blackhawks’ first 3-on-3 vs. Detroit, Trevor Daley scored off a 3-on-1 just one minute, 40 seconds into it. The second one was planned regardless of the score at the end of regulation – the Blackhawks had already won 3-1 – and lasted just 60 seconds.

A quick poll of fellow hockey writers shows most 3-on-3 sessions – be it those the league stipulated to have 3-on-3 regardless or ones necessitated by a tie – are ending quickly. And by quickly, we mean finishing in two minutes or less.

Quenneville said there are so many factors that will go into capitalizing on a 3-on-3.

“Changes are a big part of it and puck possession’s key. How do you play without the puck and you’re incorporating goaltending with it. There are a lot of intangibles,” said Quenneville. “Groups of three: two forwards and a [defenseman], two Ds and a forward or three forwards? There are a lot of options you can sort out. The personnel going into games will dictate that but technically we need some rules of thumb of how you play certain situations, particularly in your own end without [the puck.]”

Marian Hossa said he sees the opportunistic angle as well as the concerns of it.

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“There’s so much ice there and it could be a lot of fun. But also defensively it’s not easy to contain,” he said. “Because when you have big, skilled players coming against you and you lose half a step, there’s a scoring chance every time.”

It’s easy to believe the open ice means fire away from the offensive standpoint. But there’s danger in that, too. If a rebound gets away from the team on the attack, things could quickly go the other way. 

“Yeah, that’s something you have to watch out for,” Daley said. “The shooter has to protect everyone else. It’ll be interesting to see how it turns out.”

While goalies have that much more pressure on them, Quenneville said they could also be the catalyst for starting their team’s offensive push.

“I think that’ll be exactly what will happen: you’ll be in the offensive zone and you might want to keep the puck, send it down and change, come back and here we go again,” Quenneville said. “Changes are important. Getting fresh guys out there will be critical as well – how do you get the change when you’re tired and in your own end? But I think the goaltender and how he handles it, he could be one more guy who is part of the attack.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the 2015-16 Blackhawks season!]

Corey Crawford’s OK with possibly starting things off with a pass?

“I don’t know. I don’t want to be trying too much. If there’s an opportunity I’ll take it,” Crawford said with a smile. “I have to stop the puck first.”

There is going to be a lot of trial and error with the 3-on-3, especially in the early going. And don’t be surprised if games end shortly after that overtime begins, at least until teams become more comfortable with the new format.

Is 3-on-3 a good thing? Will it be the scorer’s dream? Will it be every goaltender’s worst nightmare? Those questions will be answered as the season progresses. It will definitely be entertaining. And right now, it looks to be serving its original purpose.

“For the people, it’ll be real interesting and a lot of goals,” Hossa said. “And you probably won’t see as many shootouts.”

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!