Blackhawks

Blackhawks getting 'a bonus' from defensemen chipping in offensively

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Blackhawks getting 'a bonus' from defensemen chipping in offensively

The Blackhawks defensemen’s main role is preventing others from scoring, and on this recent road trip they did a pretty good job of that.

Adding a few points on the other end, however, never hurts. And in the Blackhawks’ last three games, their defensemen did that.

You’re used to seeing Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith getting their share of points, especially considering their minutes and their roles on the power play. But other defensemen also chipped in during the Blackhawks’ three-game winning streak. Trevor van Riemsdyk had a goal and an assist in his past two games. Seabrook had an assist in each of his last two games, Michal Rozsival had his first goal of the season against Arizona and Niklas Hjalmarsson had two assists vs. the Dallas Stars.

“Guys that don't do a lot of scoring, whether they're up front or on the back end, it's kind of like a bonus,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I think it's the reflection, too, of what we're talking about, just putting pucks at the net and things happen. Bad-angle shots or just, you know, clears out of our own end and beating them in races that develop into scoring chances and situations from that type of play.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The Blackhawks’ winning streak was a combination of several things: energy gained from the All-Star break, great goaltending from Corey Crawford and a strong puck-possession game. The Blackhawks took their share of shots with that puck possession – they had 42 and 40 shots, respectively, vs. Colorado and Arizona – and the defensemen were as much a part of that as the forwards.

“Obviously we’re trying to be involved in the offense, whether it’s jumping in the rush or being active when we have the puck in their end,” van Riemsdyk said. “It’s nice to get contributions from the D and not just have only the forwards put the puck in the net.”

Van Riemsdyk added that, from a defenseman’s perspective, it’s about reading each situation to see if you can/can’t get an opportunity for offense.

“You always want to be right on the back of the rush, whether you’re fully jumping in and going into the other end or reading from there and pulling off or whatever you do,” he said. “Any time we make those passes we want to be moving our feet and joining the rush, and as we jump in, diagnose it from there.”

[MORE: (No) change is good: Hawks’ second line a model of consistency]

Andrew Shaw said any points the defensemen can add are beneficial.

“They’re getting the puck up ice quick, getting shots on the net and it’s going to help our offensive game. We keep getting the pucks in, keep getting them deep they’re going to keep chipping in.”

The Blackhawks were lacking offense heading into the break. Again, a lot of that was a symptom of fatigue for a team that had played a non-stop schedule entering the All-Star weekend. Now they’re getting it back, and their defensemen have played as big a part in that as their forwards.

“I always say there's enough offense within our team, so we don't care where it comes from, but it’s nice to see,” Quenneville said. “And I'm sure those guys feels good about it.”

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

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USA TODAY

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!