Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Patrick Kane hitting his postseason stride

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Blackhawks: Patrick Kane hitting his postseason stride

Patrick Kane talked of the Blackhawks’ four-game sweep of the Minnesota Wild, the second-round series in which he scored five goals, nearly as many as the Wild itself.

“I still think there [are] some areas that I can try to improve a little bit,” Kane said. “I play with some great players who have given me some great chances to get some great looks and it is going in the back of the net.”

The great players always look for ways to improve; it’s part of their DNA. Still, to hear Kane, who’s playing as well as ever coming off that fractured left clavicle, saying he can get better still makes you shake your head.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Buy a Patrick Kane jersey here]

Until the final three minutes of Thursday’s game, Kane had as many goals (five) as the Minnesota Wild through the entire four-game series – the Wild scored two in those waning minutes.

In all, Kane has recorded at least one point in nine of the Blackhawks’ 10 postseason games. When the playoffs roll around, top players usually have less space and fewer opportunities to score. Kane’s proving that wrong.

“He has a special ability where he can find spots and create things out of nothing, really,” Johnny Oduya said. “Obviously he’s good with the timely goals, too. It’s something that you like to have on your team, especially as a D man. It can just be a break, you score a goal and you’re up. We’re fortunate to have him here. We have a couple of guys like that, who are special players.”

[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Michal Rozsival lost for the season]

When Kane returned from his clavicle surgery after seven weeks, the question was how long would it take for him to get back to normal. Kane wondered himself, especially in the more physical postseason. How would he react after that first big hit? Kane got his answer in Game 5 against Nashville, when Predators forward Mike Ribeiro landed a big hit on him. Kane came out of that hit healthy giving him the confidence to forget about his injury and concentrate on his game, with tremendous results.

“I know when he first came back he was a little slow, hesitant. But every game since he’s been comfortable,” Bryan Bickell said. “I think he’s back to where he was before that injury, when he was an elite top scorer in the league. And we need him. He’s a guy we can depend on. When big goals are needed, he finds the back of the net.”

Kane is playing as well as ever. He says there are still areas in which he can improve. He’s already off to one heck of a postseason start.

“That’s just like any other game,” Kane said. “You take what happened the game before and wipe the slate clean and do your best the next game.”

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!

Four takeaways: Blackhawks suffer first regulation loss, but Corey Crawford looks sharp in season debut

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USA TODAY

Four takeaways: Blackhawks suffer first regulation loss, but Corey Crawford looks sharp in season debut

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center on Thursday:

1. Return of the Crow

The Blackhawks got their man back between the pipes after a 10-month layoff due to a concussion. And he looked like same old "Crow."

Crawford stopped 27 of 30 shots for a save percentage of .900. He faced 12 shots and eight scoring chances in the first period, but nothing too out of the ordinary. The biggest save he made was on a Michael Grabner breakaway in the third period, bailing out a turnover in the neutral zone.

"I think I felt better in the second and third," Crawford said. "But they really didn’t get that many opportunities early. It was nice. I think they flipped one in for the first one, so that was kind of good just to get in it and feel one early. We were close in that one all game and we created a lot. I thought [Antti] Raanta played really well.

"It was a tough, tough break at the end. Still felt I should have stopped that one. We were right there, we were creating a lot and gotta try to come up with that one. Just gotta forget about it and worry about the next game."

2. Alex DeBrincat, Jonathan Toews extend point streaks

The hot start continues for the Blackhawks' two leading scorers, both of whom assisted on Erik Gustafsson's goal in the second period to stretch their point streaks to six games. DeBrincat and Toews each have 10 points this season.

3. Overtime streak ends

The Blackhawks made history by forcing five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team has ever done in the four major sports (NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB). But they didn't have the comeback magic in them this time.

Entering Thursday, the Blackhawks were 1-0-1 when trailing after two periods. They were 5-28-2 last season for a win percentage of .143.

4. Familiar faces, new places

Five former Blackhawks took the ice for the Coyotes: Vinnie Hinostroza, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jordan Oesterle, Richard Panik and Antti Raanta.

It was Hjalmarsson's first trip back to Chicago since being traded in the 2017 offseason. He received a nice video tribute during the second TV timeout of the first period, which made him very emotional.

"I almost got emotional too seeing his reaction," Toews said. "He's one of those guys you'll never forget what he meant to this locker room. He was a quiet guy in the room but we all know how he played and put everyone else before himself. Pretty cool reaction from the fans too. I think we were all sad to see him leave this locker room, he did a lot of special things and was a massive part of our championship wins. Happy for him to get that reception. It's well-deserved and obviously we miss having him around."

As far as the game, Hjalmarsson logged a team-high 22:18 of ice time and blocked three shots. Oesterle registered a secondary assist on Arizona's first goal, which was its first 5-on-5 of the season.

Hinostroza, who was also part of the Marian Hossa trade over the summer, scored twice in his return to his hometown, beating Crawford with a wrist shot to make it 2-1 in the second period and an empty-netter in the third; his second goal turned out to be the game winner, the fourth of his career and first as a member of the Coyotes.

Panik recorded four shot attempts (three on goal). And Raanta improved to 16-0-3 in his career at the United Center, a remarkable record for any goaltender in any situation.