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.

NHL, NHLPA reach tentative agreement on Return to Play plan and CBA extension

NHL, NHLPA reach tentative agreement on Return to Play plan and CBA extension

One day after finalizing the protocols for Phases 3 and 4, the NHL and NHL Players' Association announced Monday that they have reached a tentative agreement on the Return to Play plan and Collective Bargaining Agreement extension that runs through the 2025-26 season and includes transition rules and a new critical dates calendar.

The tentative agreement is now subject to approval by the NHL's Board of Governors as well as the NHLPA's Executive Board followed by the league-wide NHLPA membership vote, which means the process could take roughly three-to-five days to finalize. Until then, it's only unofficially official.

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The NHL released three key dates in advance of the Return to Play plan and CBA ratification:

  • July 13 — Formal training camps open
  • July 26 — Teams travel to hub cities
  • Aug. 1 — Start of qualifying round

If all goes as planned, Blackhawks training camp will open at Fifth Third Arena exactly one week from Monday before the team heads to Edmonton, where they will take on the Oilers in a five-game play-in series.

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews participates in Monday's voluntary practice

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews participates in Monday's voluntary practice

On Monday, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews skated with teammates at the Hawks' practice facility for the first time since the NHL paused on March 11.

Teams have been allowed to hold small, voluntary group workouts since June 8 in accordance with the NHL's Return To Play plan. Blackhawks players first started showing up at Fifth Third Arena in Chicago on June 10.

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Patrick Kane and goalie Malcolm Subban, who have been regularly participating in the on and off-ice workouts since they began, were also on the ice with Toews Monday.

Related: Patrick Kane, several Blackhawks return to practice facility

Training camps are scheduled to start on July 13 for teams competing in the NHL's 24-team playoffs held in Edmonton and Toronto, the two hub cities.

The postseason, which has the Hawks facing the Oilers in a best-of-5 play-in series is slated to begin August 1.