Blackhawks will take all the rest they can get


Blackhawks will take all the rest they can get

The playoffs, the “second season” as we like to call it, can come with a busy schedule.

There are the games, some of which go into overtime(s). There’s the travel. There’s the physical wear and tear, which only increases with each passing game. It’s a grind, and one that usually doesn’t come with much time to relax.

For the Blackhawks, however, that rare rest is here once again. Thanks to their 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, which gave them a four-game series sweep in the second round, the Blackhawks can kick back, relax and watch Calgary and Anaheim knock each other around a while longer.

[MORE HAWKS: Five things from Blackhawks-Wild Game 4]

“Yeah, we’ll see when the other series close out,” Corey Crawford said. “But I’m sure we’ll get at least a good week, I would say.”

Indeed, since the NHL will wait to begin the Eastern and Western Conference Finals until all second-round series are complete, the Blackhawks should get some ample time to recover. They had six days between when they eliminated the Nashville Predators to when they opened their series vs. the Wild. How much that helped, who knows; it certainly didn’t hurt. Whether it’s the Flames or the Ducks, the Blackhawks will face a much more physical series than they have to this point. So they’ll take the rest.

“Yeah, heal up some bumps and bruises and watch some games, scout the team that we might be playing,” Patrick Sharp said. “It’s a good series going on over there [between Anaheim and Calgary]. Anytime you can take a few days and rest it’s a positive this time of year and hopefully we’ll be ready for Game 1.”

[MORE HAWKS: Blackhawks sweep Wild, move on to Western Conference Final]

That rest will probably benefit the Blackhawks’ defensemen the most. The team’s top four has logged strong minutes already – Duncan Keith is averaging a team-high 30 minutes, 37 seconds per game. And the top defensemen's minutes will likely go up now that Michal Rozsival’s status is official: he fractured his ankle in the second period on Thursday night, will need surgery and is out the rest of this postseason.

No matter who gets installed in the lineup to replace Rozsival – David Rundblad, Kyle Cumiskey and Michael Paliotta are available right now – the new guy may not hit the ground running. Also, keep in mind that Kimmo Timonen has played every game but sparingly, so Timonen has to play more or someone has to take those extra minutes, too.

“That group for the most part has played some significant minutes we’ll see how it all turns out and works out,” Quenneville said. “But a couple of days off here will be nice and we’ll see what happens.”

[SHOP: Get the latest Blackhawks gear here]

The Blackhawks advanced to the Western Conference Finals a lot faster than most expected. They’ll get a break, one that could be critical at this time of year.

“We’ll watch the other series and get ready for whoever we are playing next,” Patrick Kane said. “I think we have a couple days off here, so take advantage of the rest and make sure we are primed and ready for Game 1 in the conference finals.”

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!

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

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.