Blackhawks want to feed off Game 2 energy at home


Blackhawks want to feed off Game 2 energy at home

The Blackhawks enjoyed their thrilling, triple-overtime Game 2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks about as long as they could: which wasn’t long at all.

They reveled some in the locker room right after that 3-2 triumph. Then reality set in and the fatigue took over after they played the longest game in franchise history.

But the exhaustion wasn’t the only reason the Blackhawks turned the page quickly. It’s just what they do this time of year because no matter the loss or victory, no matter the length of the game, they can’t afford to dwell on it long.

The Blackhawks return to the United Center for the first time since May 3 – yes, it’s been that long – on Thursday night, when they host the Ducks in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final. Whether or not this next game goes as long as the previous one, the competition level will likely be high. The Blackhawks handed the Ducks their first postseason home loss on Tuesday night, and Anaheim will be looking to return the favor.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“I think both teams got a lot of respect for what the other team's capable of doing,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “There's a lot of skill, a lot of balance on their team. They [have] got four lines that can score, skate. We feel we got to battle it with our four lines as well.  There’s a lot of depth on these teams. You’ve got to bring the importance of each shift.”

Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said his players were angry following Game 2’s loss, and he’s fine with that emotion. The Ducks haven’t lost two in a row thus far this postseason and Boudreau said he expects a good response on Thursday night.

“We’ve done it all year. I would be more surprised if we weren’t able to rebound and play a really great game than if it went the other way around,” he said. “I’ve been with this group for a long time now. You can see it. They were, rightfully so, very angry last night. Not disappointed, but angry. That’s a good thing.”

[MORE: Defensemen not sweating major minutes following Game 2 marathon]

Meanwhile, as much as the Blackhawks were physically drained in Game 2, they were also rejuvenated. They got that split on the road, which is never easy. It was also a reminder after Game 1, which the Blackhawks lost 4-1, that they still had more to give.

“I think considering the way we played, we know there's a lot more in the tank,” Jonathan Toews said. “I think we're excited to get back to home ice, to try to get them on their heels a little bit more, find the excitement, that energy we've had in our own building.”

The Blackhawks will be facing an angry Ducks team that’s looking to mar the Blackhawks’ unblemished postseason home record. They enjoyed their Game 2 victory, albeit briefly. There’s no time to; the next test is coming up fast.

“We're here. [There is] not a lot of time before it's time to go back to bed, get ready for another game tomorrow, no time to really sit around and enjoy a big win,” Toews said. “The best we can do is feed off of that positive energy it gave us in tomorrow night's game, try to continue that good feeling.”

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


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!