Blackhawks

Blackhawks want to build off 'first 39 and change'

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Blackhawks want to build off 'first 39 and change'

For nearly 40 minutes on Sunday the Blackhawks looked like — the Blackhawks.

We mean the dominating, four-line-rolling Blackhawks that people have been used to watching the last few seasons. That team, for nearly two periods, was very evident on Sunday.

“I know that was as good as we’ve played. That’s the pace we have to play at, with consistency and purpose,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Meaning in every shift.”

[MORE: Blackhawks' Artemi Panarin named NHL's first star of week]

And that team is going to have to be more evident — and for 60 minutes or more, not just 40 — as they head into the postseason.

The Blackhawks would rather forget the final 20-plus minutes of Sunday’s victory over the Bruins. That was a combination of Blackhawks breakdowns and Bruins mettle that made a once lopsided game more interesting than the Blackhawks would have liked. But for the first 40 minutes — or as Quenneville more specifically noted, “the first 39 and change” — the Blackhawks liked what they did.

It would be easy to focus on the six goals the Blackhawks scored during that time, and certainly the outburst was a welcome sight. But it several cases, it was what the Blackhawks were denying on the other end during those minutes that was leading to the Blackhawks’ scoring opportunities.

“We saw it there for 40 minutes, how good we can be. And it all starts with how well we defend. You see six goals coming fast, and it’s all about how we defend,” Trevor van Riemsdyk said. “It seems counterintuitive or whatever it may be, but it really is when we’re turning them over, giving them nothing and using our transition and our speed and skill. We have so many great forwards up there that can make so much happen. If we can just stay patient and really focus on how we defend, that leads to our offense.”

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The Blackhawks had a few goals down this regular-season stretch. They wanted to shore up their overall game and rekindle their offense — the second line of Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane was looking strong again on Sunday. They wanted to get the most out of a defense minus Duncan Keith, who still has four games remaining on his suspension. Through (nearly) the first two periods on Sunday, the Blackhawks were playing as they hoped to all season.

Now they need to rinse and repeat — and do it for more than 40 minutes from here on out.

“I think we’re happy with our first 40 for sure. That’s something we need to continue to play and build off that,” Brent Seabrook said. “It goes to show when we’re playing our game we can play that way.”

Corey Crawford expects to make season debut for Blackhawks on Thursday vs. Arizona

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Corey Crawford expects to make season debut for Blackhawks on Thursday vs. Arizona

The wait is almost over.

After missing nearly 10 months with a concussion, Corey Crawford said he expects to start on Thursday when the Blackhawks take on the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center. An official decision will come following the team's morning skate.

"It feels good to be back to myself," Crawford said. "I'm feeling good, I'm feeling clear. ... It was a pretty long process. But I think the most important thing was not to rush anything. When I finally was out, it got to a point where I wasn’t in shape to play and it was time to rest and it’s unfortunate it took a lot longer than I would’ve liked. 

"It’s been long, but finally, just to get back and be practicing with the team has meant a lot. It’s good to get to this point now when you’re really close to playing. Practices have been great, been getting timing a little bit more and getting up to speed and reading shots and all that, so it'll be nice to finally get in one."

Crawford's last appearance in an NHL game was Dec. 23, 2017 against the New Jersey Devils when he allowed three goals on seven shots in 13:22 of action before getting pulled. So of course, emotions will naturally be running high, especially in front of the hometown crowd.

"I'm sure I'll be a little anxious getting into it," Crawford said. "Some nerves. But we'll see. We'll wait until the morning, but I'm definitely excited I can tell you that."

It's obviously terrific news for the Blackhawks, who have picked up eight out of a possible 10 points to start the season and are getting their two-time Stanley Cup winning goalie back between the pipes. It's been a long time coming, and Crawford is coming back into a healthy situation where the Blackhawks are in a good spot in the standings.

"It's great news, I'm sure it'll be exciting for him exciting for our team, exciting for our fans and the organization as well," Patrick Kane said. "It’s probably a good situation all around. Cam [Ward] has done a great job of playing in the net so far. Crow is really good in practice right now, so I’m sure he’s itching to get back, too. We’ve had a good start here. It’s something we want to keep going, and I’m sure him coming back on home ice, in front of our crowd, will be a fun one for him and for our team."

There's no doubting how important Crawford is the team and organization. While there may be a little bit of rust early on, the Blackhawks are expecting him to look like his old self.

"He means a lot to the team," Quenneville said. "We felt last year was a good example of how important he was and how well he was playing for us, as well. We’ve gotten off to a decent start and he was a big factor in it. We know that goaltending is such a big part of the team and your success a lot of nights depends on him and his consistency’s always been in place.

"But he looks good in the net. He’s been off for a long, long time. Is there rust? Do we expect rust? I think the way he’s competing and practicing and finding pucks, he looks like he hasn’t missed a beat. So we’re looking forward to him getting in there and getting comfortable and how he’s feeling going forward will dictate a lot of the decisions about him going back in."

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Charlie Roumeliotis and Slavko Bekovic provide their thoughts on the Blackhawks’ 3-0-2 start.

They also discuss Brandon Saad’s demotion and whether it could serve as a wake-up call, Corey Crawford’s potential return on Thursday vs. Arizona and what could happen with Anton Forsberg because of it, and address the power play concerns.

The guys wrap up the podcast by making a few bold predictions going forward.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!