Blackhawks

Blues edge Blackhawks in overtime to take Game 1

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Blues edge Blackhawks in overtime to take Game 1

ST. LOUIS – It really shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone, right?

The Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues played close hockey games all regular season. Plus going to overtime in Game 1 seems to be a Blackhawks habit – this marked the fifth consecutive season their first game needed extra time.

But just like two years ago in their Game 1 matchup here, the Blackhawks came up short.

David Backes scored the deciding goal 9:04 into overtime and Brian Elliott stopped all 35 shots he saw as the St. Louis Blues beat the Blackhawks 1-0 in Game 1 of their first-round series on Wednesday night.

Corey Crawford stopped 17 of 18 shots in just his second game back from an upper-body injury. Backes’ shot, from an angle, hit off Trevor van Riemsdyk’s right skate and past Crawford.

“Yeah, obviously not what you want there. Tough break,” van Riemsdyk said afterward. “But we just have to come back ready for the next game.”

[SHOP: Gear up for the Stanley Cup playoffs, Blackhawks fans!]

It was a tough ending for the Blackhawks but not a debilitating one. They didn’t allow much – the Blues had just 18 shots in the game, including 16 through regulation. Their defense, minus Duncan Keith for the final game of his six-game suspension, played well overall.

“Well there are a lot of positives. I thought we did some good things, certainly had some good looks in the third period, some quality rush chances,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “It was a tight game. But we played exactly the right way and what we’re looking to and didn’t take advantage of the chances we had.”

Yes, some of those chances were on 5-on-5 and others were on the power play. You could’ve looked at both teams’ power plays in two ways: either the power plays failed or the penalty kills were great. It was likely a mix. Quenneville was OK with most of the power plays but didn’t like the last one, when Blues defenseman Colton Parayko sent the puck into the stands just seven seconds into overtime. The Blackhawks barely broke into the Blues’ zone and created nothing.

“I mean I think we saw some pretty good penalty killing by bot teams. Give them credit. But we can move the puck quicker, take our shots and take our chances when we have them and try to generate off the second efforts. That’s how we’ll score goals in the series,” Jonathan Toews said. “When the pucks were lying around we didn’t find them. It’s about settling down and calming down on that power play and just playing with more composure and with our heads up. When we start making those plays things will start happening more.”

The Blackhawks liked a lot of what they did on Wednesday: except the ending. They realize they had ample opportunities to turn that finish to their favor. They wanted to try and sweep the Blues on the road these first two games. Now that opportunity is lost, they’ll go for the split. And to do that, they’ll need the finish in Game 2 that they didn’t have in Game 1.

“There’s not a big difference playing St. Louis (in Round 1) and playing Tampa in the finals. It’s so even nowadays — all eight playoff teams are so close to each other. It’s like a Stanley Cup Final right away,” Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “St. Louis is one of the best teams in the league. We’re up for a big task here.”

Blackhawks make it official: Corey Crawford is back

Blackhawks make it official: Corey Crawford is back

He’s back.

Corey Crawford was officially activated from injured reserve on Thursday and will start in goal for the first time since Dec. 23, 2017 when the Blackhawks host the Arizona Coyotes.

"It’s exciting," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I’m sure he’s looking forward to it and we’re all excited about it as well. It’ll be a fun situation for the guys, seeing him back in the net as well. So we’re looking for everyone to be excited about tonight’s game."

The two-time Stanley Cup champion was medically cleared to practice from his concussion on Oct. 1, but the Blackhawks wanted to give Crawford as much time as he needed to get his conditioning and puck-tracking skills up to game speed before putting him into game action.

"It feels good to be back to myself," Crawford said on Wednesday. "I'm feeling good, I'm feeling clear. It was a pretty long process. ... 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."

To make room for Crawford on the 23-man roster, the Blackhawks have assigned forward Luke Johnson to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League. Brandon Saad, who wore a white healthy scratch jersey all week at practice, will take his spot in the lineup.

For now, the Blackhawks will hang on to Anton Forsberg and carry three goaltenders as insurance as they get ready to start a seven-games-in-11-days stretch.

Crawford was 16-9-2 with a 2.27 goals against average, .929 save percentage and two shutouts in 28 games last season. The Blackhawks were 17-30-8 without him and finished last in the Central Division.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: