Blackhawks

Blackhawks lean on experience to end scoring drought in Arizona

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Blackhawks lean on experience to end scoring drought in Arizona

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Blackhawks only scored one goal in their previous two games before obliterating that scoring drought in the desert.

A 7-5 win over the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena — which was packed with Blackhawks fans — Tuesday night was the result for a team that’s been through plenty of short-lived peaks and valleys throughout its wildly successful last six or seven regular seasons.

“We’ve been though a lot as a group together, and when new guys funnel in year after year we want to show them that, show them we have confidence even if we’re losing games,” forward Patrick Kane, who scored a goal and tallied two assists, said. “I think our team has done a good job this year when we don’t play that well, we have a good formula to win games and when you take over games like you did tonight … it’s fun to be a part of and fun to watch."

A prosperous power play ignited the Blackhawks’ offense in the first period, with Duncan Keith, Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin netting goals with a man advantage. The first power play of the night didn’t look threatening until Kane flicked a pass between his legs to Keith, who rifled home a goal from the top of the left circle. The Blackhawks finished the night with three goals on four power plays, and now lead the NHL with a 27 percent success rate on power plays away from home (14/51).

“It’s tough to score,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “You gotta make sure you get an effective power play. I think the balance of the two units is so key to us being as effective as it’s been.”

[HIGH FLYING HAWK VS. COYOTES: Andrew Desjardins]

Prolonged losing streaks are a rarity for the Blackhawks, who haven’t lost at least three consecutive games in regulation since the end of the 2014-2015 regular season. The Blackhawks lost three games in a row — two in overtime — after Thanksgiving, then ripped off wins in seven of their next nine games.

This team is a well-oiled machine with plenty of horsepower to rattle off goals in spurts, even when things look bleak for a game or two.

“We realize that we have offensive ability,” center Andrew Desjardins, who scored a pair of goals, said. “You go through stretches where the puck doesn’t go in and you try to stay with it and maybe try to get more pucks to the net, get it around the net. It’s going to come. The offensive ability on this team will take over.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The five goals allowed were a concern to Quenneville & Co. after the game, as the Blackhawks’ defense allowed Arizona to stay within striking distance. Shane Doan had a hat trick, with two of those goals coming in the third period, and tied Hall of Famer Dale Hawerchuck for the most goals in Coyotes franchise history (379).

But after back-to-back games with little offensive gusto, the Blackhawks will take a win in a game in which they scored a touchdown and extra point’s worth of goals. That ability to bounce back is something that former Blackhawks and current Coyotes forward Viktor Tikhonov said is in this organization’s DNA.

“There’s so much experience in that room, they’ve been through everything multiple times,” Tikhonov said before the game. “It’s hard, probably, for a team like that to reach a situation where it’s a whole lot of losses in a row.”

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!