Corey Crawford, Blackhawks shut down Red Wings


Corey Crawford, Blackhawks shut down Red Wings

The Blackhawks weren’t too thrilled with how they played through the middle minutes against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday.

But they’ll take the start and finish.

Corey Crawford stopped 33 of 34 shots and Patrick Kane established a new season high in points as the Blackhawks beat the Red Wings 4-1 at the United Center. The Blackhawks remain in first place in the Central Division. The Dallas Stars beat the Ottawa Senators to equal the Blackhawks in points (87) but the Blackhawks have the regulation/overtime victory edge, 40-38.

Kane’s goal, which came 21 seconds into the game, gives him 89 points this season; that tops the previous career best of 88 he set during the 2009-10 season. His 38 goals are also a career high. Crawford’s 35th victory of the season is his new career best.

Artem Anisimov had a goal and an assist while Artemi Panarin had two assists for the Blackhawks. Duncan Keith and Jonathan Toews each had goals. For the Blackhawks, it’s always about playing as close to a 60-minute game as possible. That didn’t happen on Sunday, but they got great goaltending and two power-play goals to pace them.

“Kind of comparable in Detroit: I thought we had a good start, they get back in the game with a good second period,” coach Joel Quenneville said of the Blackhawks’ 5-2 victory there last week. “Crow was good again and our special teams were like we saw in Detroit: very good.”

[SHOP: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

Yes, the Blackhawks got good work out of their penalty kill and power play on Sunday, and they needed both of them. Keith and Anisimov had the power-play goals – Keith’s shot came from a distance while Anisimov redirected a Panarin shot. The power play was ranked third entering the game, a big difference from the last few seasons.

“It comes with confidence,” Toews said. “I think when you have a stretch where pucks are going in, it just adds to the rest of your power play, what you do with the puck, your breakouts, your entries, retrieving pucks especially off of initial shots that maybe don’t go in in their zone. I think it just trickles down when you’re scoring goals and you’re getting bounces.”

The Blackhawks’ kill nixed all three of the Red Wings’ power-play opportunities. A big part of that kill, as well as the entire second period, was Crawford. When the Blackhawks went quiet through the middle 20 minutes Crawford was stalwart, stopping all 13 shots he saw in the second. The Blackhawks had just three shots in that period.

“We didn’t get any shots any possession in their end at all,” Quenneville said of that second period. “We didn’t give up quality but Crow, I thought he moved the puck well on rebounds and dumps. He was very effective in a lot of ways.”

The Blackhawks have been looking for consistency in their game as they come down the stretch here. They didn’t get the desired amount of that on Sunday but they had exactly what they wanted at the start, and more of it at the finish.

“We want to get better every day and improve our team game and getting a four-line rotation where we’re keeping everyone in the game here. Tonight one group didn’t play as much as we’d like but going forward we’d like to see more balance in the ice time,” Quenneville said. “We want to finish as high as we can. That’s the motivation.”

All eyes on Blackhawks defensemen as prospect camp opens


All eyes on Blackhawks defensemen as prospect camp opens

The second wave of Blackhawks defensemen is on the way. That's exactly where all the attention was when prospect camp opened up Monday at MB Ice Arena.

Nicolas Beaudin. Adam Boqvist. Henri Jokiharju. Ian Mitchell. Call it the Big Four. Where are they all at in their development? When will they be ready to make an NHL impact? Who's the most pro ready? 

Lots of questions. Those will slowly start to get answered and it begins now.

While there may not necessarily be an open competition among the group right away, there's certainly a desire to make a strong first impression in front of the upper brass that included Stan Bowman, John McDonough and Joel Quenneville watching on Day 1.

"Every NHL team has a lot of good defensemen prospects, so I mean obviously when you want to go out there you want to showcase yourself as best as you can," Mitchell said. "Obviously you want to be the best defenseman here so that's my goal going into this, I want to prove to everyone that I'm a good defenseman, I deserve to play at the next level. Obviously there's lots of good players here, but you're trying to all succeed."

Said Beaudin: "There's a lot of competition. There's a lot of good, young defensemen. I think you just need to be different when you play when you show what you can do."

Said Boqvist: "I'm trying to be better every day. Of course I will play in the NHL one day and win Stanley Cups, so that's my mindset."

The theme? Focus on your own game, take what you learn out of this week and apply those tools in your game when advancing your development next season. The rest will take care of itself.

Mitchell will go back to Denver for his sophomore campaign to continue his development. Beaudin is expected to return to the QMJHL with the Drummondville Voltigeurs. Boqvist signed with the OHL's London Knights, where he will look to get accustomed to the North American style of play.

For Jokiharju, the goal is different. This is his second development camp. He signed an entry-level contract in June. Making the big club is a real goal and a legitimate possibility for a Blackhawks team looking for young, impact defensemen immediately.

"I think if Henri has a really good summer of training, comes into camp, I certainly thinks he gets a good look," Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley told NBC Sports Chicago last month.

Jokiharju showed poise and confidence with and without the puck during drills, like someone who knows this is only the first step towards that ultimate goal.

"Yeah," Jokiharju responded when asked if the expectation is to make it to the NHL this season. "You want to set the bar high, you don't want to set the bar too low. I want to dream big and that's the dream."

That's the dream for everyone. When that happens, it's up to them. This week is a chance to set an early tone.

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery was identified as the victim in an early morning drowning on Sunday at the Hamilton Harbour, Hamilton Police confirmed. He was 35.

According to the Hamilton Spectator, Emery and his friends jumped in the water around 6:30 a.m., but Emery never resurfaced. His body was recovered later in the afternoon.

Emery played in the NHL for 11 seasons, two of which came with the Blackhawks from 2011-13, where he served as a backup goaltender to Corey Crawford.

In 2013, he teammated up with Crawford to win the William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goaltender(s) with the fewest goals against in a single season, before going on to capture his first Stanley Cup. During that season, Emery went 17-1-0 with a 1.94 goals against average, .922 save percentage and three shutouts.

The Blackhawks issued this statement following the confirmation:

The Chicago Blackhawks organization was deeply saddened to hear of Ray Emery’s passing. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. The Blackhawks will fondly remember Ray as a fierce competitor, a good teammate and a Stanley Cup champion.

The hockey community took to Twitter to offer their condolences when news began to spread: