Blackhawks

Corey Crawford shines but Blackhawks lose to Avalanche in OT

Corey Crawford shines but Blackhawks lose to Avalanche in OT

Coach Joel Quenneville wondered how Corey Crawford would look coming off a three-week injury hiatus.

Sure, Crawford’s had several practices over the past week, and faced shots from teammates the last few days. But game timing and situations are always different than practice, so the curiosity was there.

Crawford answered any doubt. Unfortunately, he didn’t get enough help from his teammates.

Crawford stopped 32 of 34 shots but took the loss when the Colorado Avalanche came back to beat the Blackhawks in overtime, 2-1, on Friday night. The Blackhawks head into the Christmas break atop the Western Conference with 50 points. Their lead, however, will be a tight one when they return to post-Christmas play. The Minnesota Wild, which have won 10 in a row, are just four points behind them.

Jonathan Toews scored his first goal since Nov. 6, a power-play goal that gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead at the time. Artemi Panarin had the primary assist on that goal, running his point streak to seven consecutive games.

Crawford, who’s been sidelined since Dec. 3, when he had an appendectomy, looked strong and agile in his return. As the Blackhawks got off to another slow start, he didn’t, stopping eight shots before the Blackhawks recorded their second shot at the other end. Crawford made several big stops, including a lunging stick save on Nikita Zadorov in the second period. But an Avalanche 2-on-1, led and finished by Nathan MacKinnon, cost him the potential victory in overtime.

“Yeah, I was just trying to feel good right from the start. I was reading plays pretty good. That’s the most important thing is seeing the puck well, obviously is the first thing, but reading plays and reacting after that,” Crawford said. “I felt pretty good.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Brian Campbell figured Crawford, who heard the “Corey, Corey” chant a few times on Friday, would snap back quickly.

“I think Corey knows how to get himself ready and he had time to practice this week. Yeah, I don’t think there’s any question with us,” Campbell said. “He made the crowd roar a little bit tonight so it was pretty cool to see that display.”

The rest of the Blackhawks, though, were a bit lackluster. They didn’t get enough sustained traffic around Calvin Pickard, who had a strong night, too, in stopping 38 of 39 shots. The lack of traffic was frustrating for Quenneville.

“Not enough, not enough,” Quenneville said. “We had the puck a lot in the offensive zone but not too much inside.”

As Quenneville said, some Blackhawks played well, some didn’t. One who definitely played well was Toews, who finished with a game-high seven shots on goal and also won 20 of 28 faceoffs. He broke his lengthy goal-less streak in the second period, swatting home Panarin’s shot for a power-play goal.

The Blackhawks wrap up a very busy portion of their schedule. They’ve done pretty well up to this point, despite injuries and slow starts. A big part of their success has been goaltending. Crawford, even after a lengthy injury break, was once again giving the Blackhawks a chance on Friday.

Blackhawks mailbag: Why did the Blackhawks give up on Henri Jokiharju so fast?

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks mailbag: Why did the Blackhawks give up on Henri Jokiharju so fast?

Every Friday this offseason, Charlie Roumeliotis will look to answer your Blackhawks and hockey-related questions. Be sure to chime in using the hashtag #HawksMailbag on Twitter for a chance to have your question answered in the next edition. 

Why did we gave up on Henri so fast?

The question isn’t why did the Blackhawks give up on Henri Jokiharju so fast? It’s why did they sell him without receiving an immediate impact-type player in return, whether that came in the form of a package or not?

The Blackhawks were always going to use their surplus of defensemen prospects as trade ammo to patch up a need elsewhere. Alex Nylander could turn into a fine player, but he’s far from a sure thing. It seems like, for whatever reason, he’s struggling to take the next step and the Blackhawks find themselves hoping that he can turn into the player he was supposed to become when he was taken No. 8 overall in 2016.

With moving out Jokiharu does that mean someone like Boqvist or Beaudin is more likely to be ready to step in possibly sometime this season?

The Jokiharju trade certainly opens the door for one of those prospects to emerge from the pack, and we could see a glimpse of them as soon as this season.

After four years in the QMJHL, Beaudin will turn pro and start the season in Rockford if he doesn’t make the Blackhawks out of training camp. And according to our friend Scott Powers of The Athletic, it’s looking more like Boqvist might turn pro also after one year in the OHL.

If that’s the case, both of those prospects will be readily available for a call-up at any point. Beaudin is likely still a year away. Boqvist is the interesting one because he turned heads at training camp last season and gave the Blackhawks something to think about when they were trimming their 23-man roster.

If Boqvist excels in the AHL and the Blackhawks have a spot for him, the former No. 8 overall pick in 2018 is only a phone call away from a call-up and that could be tempting if an offensive jolt from the backend is needed.

Does the arrival of Nylander hinder the potential chance of Dach making the roster out of camp?

The Blackhawks aren’t going to keep Kirby Dach off the roster because the math squeezes him out. If he does his part to force the management group into keeping him on the team, the Blackhawks will figure out how to shuffle the cards later.

But the Nylander acquisition does add to the competition up front in general and Dach figures to be part of that mix. The challenging part is that you have to think Dach is battling for a top-nine spot. The Blackhawks won't keep him on the roster all season because he's the 11th- or 12th-best forward. They'd want him playing decent minutes in the NHL, and if he's not doing that, they'll send him back to the WHL to do it.

The ‘Hawks currently have 10 forwards (excluding Perlini) locked into a roster spot. Kubalik & Sikura are expected to round out the forwards, but who else do you think has a strong chance to make the team? Nylander? Saarela? Wedin? Quenneville? Looks less likely for Dach.

Good question, and something we’ve been writing and talking about on the Blackhawks Talk Podcast for the past several weeks. The Blackhawks like having internal competition and continue to note that you need to be 14, 15, 16 forwards deep to be successful in today's NHL.

But the reality is, the extra forwards in this scenario should be taking steps forward in helping the team right now and not serving as 13th forwards. You have to think Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Sikura will be on the Opening Day roster, but that doesn't seem like a given as of right now. The fact that Nylander could play left wing or right wing helps his case. Anton Wedin is an intriguing candidate. John Quenneville will definitely get a look. Where does Brendan Perlini factor into the plans?

It's too early to tell because it still feels like there could be some more tweaks coming between now and training camp.

Who do you see taking the first line LW position and the second line RW position for the majority of the year?

In Tuesday's conference call explaining the Alex Nylander-Henri Jokiharju trade, GM Stan Bowman hinted that the Blackhawks are likely to start the season with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on the first line and Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome on the second. And the question is who’s going to play left wing on the first and right wing on the second.

Andrew Shaw sticks out as somebody who could get an immediate look. Brandon Saad finished the season on the third line and was effective in that role but maybe he gets another shot also. Of course, Drake Caggiula worked so well with Kane and Toews but he’s probably better suited in a bottom-six role.

If Nylander makes the team out of training camp, he could be the wildcard. He's the kind of player who should play in the top-six with other offensively-skilled players to maximize his talent but he hasn't earned that opportunity yet. Kubalik, however, has after his breakout season offensively in the Swiss league and at the international level. And like they did with Dominik Kahun last season, the Blackhawks could look to put him in the best possible position to succeed off the bat.

If we're projecting right now, I could see these combos as the first two lines to open camp: Kubalik-Toews-Kane and DeBrincat-Strome-Shaw. 

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Blackhawks announce star-studded attendees list for 12th annual fan convention

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AP

Blackhawks announce star-studded attendees list for 12th annual fan convention

The 12th annual Blackhawks Convention will take place from July 26-28 at the Hilton Chicago, and the team announced a star-studded attendees list on Thursday:

PLAYERS

  • Artem Anisimov
  • Drake Caggiula
  • Carl Dahlstrom
  • Alex DeBrincat
  • Calvin de Haan
  • David Kampf
  • Patrick Kane
  • Slater Koekkoek
  • Robin Lehner
  • Olli Maatta
  • Connor Murphy
  • Brendan Perlini
  • Brandon Saad
  • Brent Seabrook
  • Andrew Shaw
  • Dylan Strome
  • Jonathan Toews

 

ALUMNI

  • Murray Bannerman
  • Ed Belfour
  • Bryan Bickell
  • Dave Bolland
  • Brandon Bollig
  • Ted Bulley
  • Adam Burish
  • Brian Campbell
  • Chris Chelios
  • Eric Daze
  • Tony Esposito
  • Doug Gilmour
  • Stu Grimson
  • Bobby Hull
  • Dennis Hull
  • Steve Konroyd
  • Cliff Koroll
  • Steve Larmer
  • Jamal Mayers
  • Troy Murray
  • Bernie Nicholls
  • Eddie Olczyk
  • Jeremy Roenick
  • Phil Russell
  • Denis Savard
  • John Scott
  • Patrick Sharp
  • Pat Stapleton
  • Kris Versteeg — signed AHL contract with Rockford IceHogs

 

PROSPECTS

  • Nicolas Beaudin
  • Adam Boqvist
  • Kirby Dach
  • Collin Delia
  • Mackenzie Entwistle
  • Alexandre Fortin
  • Dennis Gilbert
  • Brandon Hagel
  • Mikael Hakkarainen
  • Reese Johnson
  • Chad Krys
  • Philipp Kurashev
  • John Quenneville
  • Aleksi Saarela
  • Tim Soderlund

 

COACHES

  • Sheldon Brookbank
  • Jeremy Colliton
  • Marc Crawford
  • Tomas Mitell
  • Jimmy Waite

 

BROADCASTERS

  • Chris Boden
  • Steve Konroyd (note: also included in alumni above)
  • Troy Murray (note: also included in alumni above)
  • Eddie Olczyk (note: also included in alumni above)
  • John Wiedeman

 

Among the notable players not attending: Erik Gustafsson and Duncan Keith, respectively. Newly-signed forward Ryan Carpenter and prospect Alex Nylander also will not be in attendance.

New additions Calvin de Haan, Robin Lehner, Olli Maatta and fan favorite Andrew Shaw will be in attendance, as will No. 3 overall pick Kirby Dach.

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