Blackhawks

Blackhawks' top line, Shaw prove lethal

642794.png

Blackhawks' top line, Shaw prove lethal

Updated: Sunday, Jan. 15 at 9:39 p.m.

The Blackhawks have had good balanced scoring lately. But ultimately your top guys have to be your top guys.

And on Sunday night, they were.

Jonathan Toews and Viktor Stalberg each scored, as the Blackhawks top line of those two and Patrick Kane was stellar in a 4-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks. The Blackhawks have collected points in their last four games and are back atop the Central Division standings.

Toews, Stalberg and Kane combined for two goals, three assists and 17 of the teams 40 shots on goal, pacing the Blackhawks with a relentless game. Kane couldve easily had more than one assist, especially when former teammate Antti Niemi robbed him in the opening minutes.

I think all of us were kind of feeling it tonight, just holding onto (the puck), Kane said. Going up against their top line of (Joe) Thornton, (Patrick) Marleau and (Joe) Pavelski, you try to keep it away from them. I think we did a good job tonight.

Niemi stopped 36 of 40 against his former team; hes now 4-2-1 against them. Corey Crawford stopped 21 of 24 for the victory.

Dave Bolland also scored and rookie Andrew Shaw added his fourth goal in the seven games hes been with the Blackhawks. Stalberg, who now has 14 goals this season, had another potential score waived off due to a kicking motion.

We definitely had lots of chances; it felt like we couldve scored more Stalberg said of the top line. We had the puck on our stick most of the night, kept their top line from getting the puck.

It was the Sharks first regulation loss since Dec. 26; they went 6-0-2 in their last eight entering Sunday night.

Theyre a tough enough group to play against when youre managing the puck properly, but when you turn it over as many times as we did Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. I dont know if the puck had a Blackhawks logo on it and we thought we had to give it back to them, but we certainly did for at least the first half of the game. I thought their energy guys out-energized our group as well.

But, it wouldnt be a Blackhawks game if it wasnt a tight one. Sharks center and Evanston product Tommy Wingels made it 4-3 with less than five minutes remaining in the third, and then the Blackhawks had to kill off a Sharks 6-on-4 power play for the final 67 seconds.

It got a little scary there at the end, defenseman Duncan Keith said. (Crawford) made some big saves and we did a good job of staying tight, blocking guys out and taking away some of their lanes to get shots.

The Blackhawks took three of four on this back-to-back weekend against tough opponents. Theyve gotten a little bit of everything from everyone and got the best from their top guys on Sunday night.

Yesterday we didnt get the start we wanted to but Id say we carried that third period that we had yesterday right into today and had a great first tonight, Toews said. All in all we kept working. Its fun when we play the type of game like that.

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

crawford_usa_today_debut.jpg
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!