Blackhawks

Corey Crawford’s outings giving Blackhawks confidence

Corey Crawford’s outings giving Blackhawks confidence

Corey Crawford kept his cool, even when he lost his stick.

The Blackhawks goaltender was part of a wild 30-second sequence early in the second period of Game 2, in which he lost and regained his stick, made five stops against the St. Louis Blues and drew a “Corey” chant from the United Center crowd.

“That was a crazy scramble,” he said following Game 3. “Just trying to find the puck in that instance.”

Crawford has found the puck in front of him more than behind him so far in this series, stopping 79 of the 85 shots he’s faced in the three games. His work in Game 2 gave him 46 career postseason victories, pushing him past Tony Esposito for the most in Blackhawks history. His work is also giving the Blackhawks playing in front of him peace of mind.

“Anytime you have a goalie like Corey in net, I think it gives our whole team confidence,” Duncan Keith said. “He made some big saves in the second period where we had some chances, and they came down and had a few high-quality chances. He made those saves to keep the game the way it was. When he's making those saves, it gives you confidence knowing – I don't want to take those extra chances because that's not what we do – that you can play with that confidence that he will be there to make a save when needed.”

There was some question as to whether or not Crawford would be ready for the postseason at all. Crawford suffered an upper-body injury in mid-March and was sidelined for more than three weeks. He played in the Blackhawks’ regular-season finale in Columbus. While that game had its ups and downs – Crawford said he was getting used to game speed again – getting that game in before the playoffs turned out to be helpful.

“I thought he practiced well going into the series, back-to-back games he did a great job being ready and doing what we had to do,” coach Joel Quenneville said after Crawford won Game 2. “He looked sharp, quick, handled the puck well, exactly what you want.”

As the regular season ended, Crawford said he’d be ready for the postseason. The first three games, he certainly has been.

“It always takes a little bit of time to get back in the routines and game shape after you’ve been out for a while. But Crow is, he’s a gamer and he likes to compete and that’s what it’s all about in the playoffs,” Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “He’s one of those guys that really enjoys playoff hockey and big moments. He always rises to the occasion, so I’m not too surprised, but it’s impressive to see how fast he’s come back.”

Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch

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AP

Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch

Brandon Saad played a majority of last season on the first line, started this season on the second to change things up, got demoted to the fourth by the fifth game, and could find himself out of the lineup in the sixth.

Before the Blackhawks hit the ice for practice on Monday, the 25-year-old winger found a white jersey hanging in his stall. That's usually reserved for players who are injured — Andreas Martinsen (back) was the only other player wearing one — or players who are on the outside looking in, which appears to be Saad right now considering he was not part of the four-line rotation.

"I don't think anyone wants to be wearing white around here," he said. "But it is what it is and there's nothing you can do but keep trying to improve. It's their job to make the call to put the best team out there to win hockey games."

Known for being even-keeled through the ups and downs, Saad expressed disappointment about the possibility of being a healthy scratch on Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes. He didn't exactly show that emotion following his demotion to the fourth line, perhaps out of respect to the players he was playing with by noting how it brings balance.

But he did on Monday, and it was the first time we've really seen some sort of emotion out of him.

"Everyone makes mistakes and things aren't always going to go your way but to be out of the lineup, a little surprised today," Saad said. "But it is what it is. ... No one wants to be out of the lineup. That's never fun regardless of who you are."

When asked to pinpoint what's gone wrong, Saad said he wasn't the right person to ask.

"I think you got to ask him that," he said, referring to Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff. "It's his calls. For me, you can talk pros and cons as much as you want but just trying to go out there and compete and win hockey games. We've won a few here, I know every game has gone to overtime so they've been close. Nothing was said to me about lineup change or anything like that. You just come in and you see your jersey and you go out there and you play."

So Quenneville was asked.

"Just expect more," he said. "That's the situation."

Is his mindset in the right place?

"I think he's fine," Quenneville said. "His mindset is what it is. Whether it's urgency or passion, coming up with loose pucks in those areas is going to be the difference."

The Blackhawks sending a message shouldn't only be directed at Saad. It also serves as a reminder to his teammates and is important to note for the younger guys about earning your ice time.

"I don't really know where the coaches are coming from so I'm not going to comment on that," Jonathan Toews said respectfully. "But [Saad] has been doing some good things and I think it's good for all of us to know what's going on there because if [Saad] can get his ice time taken away, then so can a lot of guys, myself included. So we all want to play well and have team success."

The Blackhawks need Saad to return to form quickly because he's crucial to their overall success. There's no debate about that. It's why the thought of Saad, who played in all 82 games last season, serving as the 13th forward is frustrating for everyone involved.

It hasn't been a problem in the past, but now it's becoming one because of the Blackhawks' aspirations of getting back to the playoffs and their dependence on their top players.

"I don’t think it’s an issue," Quenneville said. "We just expect more out of him."

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

The Blackhawks made sports history on Saturday after they appeared in their fifth straight overtime game to start the season.

No NHL team has done that since the league introduced a regular-season overtime period in 1983-84, per the Elias Sports Bureau. It also has never happened in the history of MLB, NBA or NFL, showing just how crazy this early season run has been for the Blackhawks, who have rallied from all five games and have come away with wins in three of them.

"We’ve had five games, every one of them have been extremely intense and the game’s been on the line from start to finish," coach Joel Quenneville said following a 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. "Our group’s been competitive this year, the guys have been working hard for one another. I don’t know how many games we’ve been down in the third period, and coming back to win is special."

The Blackhawks appeared in 17 overtime/shootout games last season and won seven of them. They are one of six teams this season that have yet to pick up a regulation win.

On a separate note, Saturday marked the eighth time in Blackhawks history that one player scored a tying goal in the third period and scored in overtime (Alex DeBrincat), according to the NHL's PR department. It's the second time it's happened this year for the Blackhawks, with Jonathan Toews the other on Oct. 6 against St. Louis.