Blackhawks

Blackhawks need goals from everybody, but especially from Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane

Blackhawks need goals from everybody, but especially from Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Coach Joel Quenneville was asked about seeing more out of Jonathan Toews this postseason. Same with Patrick Kane. In each instance, the response was pretty much the same: The Blackhawks needed more out of everyone, not just those two.

"We look across the board," he said. "We always find that when we're in some tough spots our top guys always find a way to lead the charge and find a way to overcome all obstacles. And we're going to need (Toews and Kane), but we're going to need everybody else too. It's a tough challenge. You can't just rely on one guy to get it done."

Well, that's true to a point. The Blackhawks certainly need more across the board in a series that has been very lopsided in the Nashville Predators' favor. But if they want to continue past tomorrow, let alone pull off the comeback to get to the second round, they really need their top players to get going.

The Blackhawks are on the brink of elimination when they face the Nashville Predators in Game 4 of their first-round series on Thursday night. It's been an all-too quiet series overall for the Blackhawks, whose two second-period goals in Game 3 are their only ones of the first three games. The silence from their top players has been at the forefront of that.

Kane's goal on Monday was only his second in his last 10 playoff games. Toews has gone goal-less in the postseason since Game 4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2015 Stanley Cup final (12 games).

"That's something I'm obviously well aware of and no better moment than a game like (Game 4). I've waited long enough," Toews said of his goal drought. "You've got to go out there feeling lucky like you're going to work for that bounce. I'm just trying to stay patient and smart and do the right things. Obviously no more waiting. [Thursday] is a big game and a great time for it to come through and make a big play, and contribute…"

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With two goals in three games, clearly Toews and Kane aren't the only ones who are too quiet on the scoresheet. But Toews and Kane have been the offensive backbone of this team for many postseasons now. They've come up with the clutch games and goals over and over again.

"You need your best players this time of year to step up and be your best players. Throughout the playoffs, as time goes on, you kind of see some depth guys step up and have big games," Kane said. "but at times like this, I think it's the top guys who probably need to lead the charge."

The Blackhawks look to their top players for leadership, be it their words or their play. The latter is especially needed now. And the faster they get going the more there's a ripple effect throughout the lineup, with confidence and offense.  

The last time the Blackhawks were swept in a postseason series most of the players on their current roster were kids (1993 division semifinals against St. Louis). They still believe they can come back in this series. To do that they'll need contributions from everybody but they'll really need it from the guys who have done it so often in the past.

"We know what we have to do. It just comes down to what we haven't accomplished yet," Toews said. "We're getting closer and closer to getting that win. So [Thursday] we've just got to go out there and find a way to win that game."

Oilers, Blackhawks' play-in round opponent, release training camp roster

Oilers, Blackhawks' play-in round opponent, release training camp roster

Sunday afternoon, the Edmonton Oilers released their Phase 3 training camp roster. Training camps begin on Monday for teams competing in the NHL's 24-team playoffs under the league's Return To Play program. 

The Blackhawks, who were at No. 12 in the Western Conference at the time of the NHL pause on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will face the No. 5 Oilers starting Aug. 1 at Edmonton in a best-of-five qualifying round. 

Related: Oiler's Mike Green opts out of NHL's Return To Play program

Edmonton invited 33 players to attend their Return To Play camp.

Forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl headline the team's roster. Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith are among the five goalies listed.

Western Conference teams will head to Edmonton's ICE District hub to prepare for the postseason tournament on July 26.

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How Blackhawks' Corey Crawford's career prepared him for Oilers series

How Blackhawks' Corey Crawford's career prepared him for Oilers series

When the Blackhawks signed Vezina trophy finalist Robin Lehner to a one-year deal last offseason, many thought that would be it for Corey Crawford. They thought Lehner would run away as the No. 1 goalie in Chicago and Crawford would disappear.

Those who still doubt Crawford, a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Hawks, haven't watched his career very closely. 

Just as he battled to lead the Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup championship in 2015 after suffering an off-ice lower-body injury and just as he battled back to be a reliable last line of defense after multiple concussions the last couple seasons, he battled for the Hawks' net this season. 

Related: How will long layoff affect goalies in NHL's 24-team postseason?

NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes thinks it's that experience of battling and repeatedly finding his game after long layoffs from injuries that could make him a dangerous opponent for the Edmonton Oilers in the best-of-five qualifying round in the NHL's 24-team postseason kicking off Aug. 1 at Edmonton, assuming Crawford is the Hawks' starting goalie. The Blackhawks begin their training camp for the postseason on Monday.

"For somebody that hasn't gone through (injuries) before, there's so many unknowns and then maybe there's question marks and the mental elevator starts creeping up at times in ways that aren't helpful," Weekes, a former NHL goalie, told NBC Sports Chicago over the phone. "But the fact that he's had that experience in battling back from injury and coming back a long way and having extended layoffs, this isn't foreign to him. 

"So in that respect, it should be beneficial in a weird way and also give him the chance to heal up and rest up even more by way of this extended pause. I think that those things play in his favor. Those things should be playing in his favor for sure."

Related: How Blackhawks can beat Oilers with 'wealth of success' in qualifying round

This year, Crawford competed hard for the No. 1 goalie role. Leading up to the NHL pause on March 12, he had made 39 starts (16-20-3) and had a goals-against average of 2.77 with a .917 save percentage before the Hawks traded Lehner to the Vegas Golden Knights ahead of the trade deadline. With the Blackhawks, Lehner made 31 starts (16-10-5) and had a goals-against average of 3.01 and a .918 save percentage. Both tenders' numbers were hurt by an often struggling Hawks defense this year.

"I've always been a huge advocate of Crow. Crow's had an excellent run in Chicago," Weekes said. "I think the biggest challenge for him, which we all know, which isn't a state secret, (there's) just been some health challenges and he always battles back. Crow's a guy that'll battle and he's been able to come a long way back and rediscover his game, which is hard to do after layoffs, let alone multiple ones. 

"And I think this year, once he got back, talking to their goalie coach in Jimmy Waite and you got to credit Jimmy because he's put in so much work to be able to regroup Crow, numerous times. So this season specifically, when he first started, it was a little bit of a slow start as expected because he had such an extended layoff. 

Related: What's Blackhawks' key to victory over Oilers in NHL play-in series?

"But, I really think with them having Robin Lehner, it really helped because they didn't have to throw Crow right into the fire. And then Crow hit his stride and he's playing really well. ... He's played really well, coming down the stretch he looked excellent as well and that's great news for the Hawks because they're going to need him, especially in a shorter series in this play-in round against Edmonton and the fact that Crow has the experience that he does, he's played in huge games. 

"He's played in, obviously, Stanley Cup (finals). He's a winner, he's not afraid of the big stage. He's not afraid to play in a place like Chicago, he thrives on that and not to mention, internationally for Team Canada. I think where they're concerned, as far as his ability and his talent, he just looks like himself right now, which is great news for the Hawks and I know that his teammates have a lot of confidence in him so as long as he's able to... I know he's been on the ice, as long as he's healthy and feeling good they've got a good shot because he's been there before and he's done it before. 

"It's a unique opportunity for him and for his team, but he can lean on that experience of having played in big spots like the Stanley Cup Final and playoffs for years. That could be an advantage for the Hawks actually in that respect."

It's not clear who will start in net yet for the Oilers. Mikko Koskinen was 18-13-3 this year with a 2.75 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage and Mike Smith was 19-12-6 with a 2.95 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage. 

Although some of their numbers may measure up to Crawford's, neither goalie's journey can compare to his.

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