Blackhawks

Crawford pitches second straight shutout as Blackhawks down Canucks

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Crawford pitches second straight shutout as Blackhawks down Canucks

Complacency. It can be dangerous, especially in sports.

Corey Crawford admitted he got complacent for a few games this season. He wasn’t sharp. He was allowing goals that were costing the Blackhawks games. But lately, he’s gotten back to where he was at the start of the season. So have his results.

Crawford stopped all 30 shots he saw for his second consecutive shutout and Patrick Kane extended his point streak to 26 consecutive games as the Blackhawks beat the Vancouver Canucks, 4-0, on Sunday night. Duncan Keith’s power-play goal in the first period proved to be the game winner. Dennis Rasmussen scored his second goal in his four games here, and Andrew Shaw, on an empty net, scored his fifth of the season. Brandon Mashinter scored his first career NHL goal with 9.8 seconds remaining in regulation.

Kane’s point streak, which came from his secondary assist on Keith’s goal, gives him the longest point streak of any active NHL player.

For the Blackhawks, who have won four of their last five games, it was another solid home victory. For Crawford, it was his fourth shutout of the season and another outstanding game.

“I kind of had that in the beginning of the year, then I got a little complacent,” said Crawford, who added he fought through the complacency. “Just keep battling, stay with it. It ... wasn’t full 60-minute games before. I’m just trying to pay attention, be focused all game.”

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Crawford needed to be again in this one against the Canucks, who scored on Crawford five times in their Nov. 21 meeting. On Sunday, Crawford was ready for everything from a Canucks team that had some prime scoring opportunities.

“He looks composed, square, solid, anticipating, quick, very efficient, rebound control in order. He made some nice plays with the puck as well, alleviating the fore-check pressure,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Real good, fun to watch.”

The Blackhawks clung to a 1-0 lead until midway through the third period. Bryan Bickell’s shot was headed to the net, and Rasmussen pushed it over to make sure for a 2-0 lead at 11:36. While it was nearly Bickell’s first goal of the season, it was nevertheless his first assist of the season.

“I felt a little bad when I saw the replay. My instincts just took me there, and I played the puck,” Rasmussen said. “I didn’t know if I had a guy on my back. I just wanted to make sure it was in. But when I saw the replay, I wished I’d just let that puck goal so Bicksie could have scored.”

Shaw and Mashinter added their goals in the final 31 seconds of regulation. The Blackhawks have got a nice formula going right now. Their power play is working, as is their penalty kill. They’re getting more balance on their lines. And their goaltending is back to being anything but complacent.

“He looks ready. His quickness and anticipation, focus, following the puck, he’s been tracking it real nice,” Quenneville said of Crawford. “It looks like it’s going to be tough to beat him.”

With Connor Murphy set to return, Blackhawks reassign Adam Boqvist to Rockford

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USA TODAY

With Connor Murphy set to return, Blackhawks reassign Adam Boqvist to Rockford

The Blackhawks announced Thursday morning that they have reassigned top defenseman prospect Adam Boqvist to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

The 19-year-old Swedish defenseman appeared in six games for the Blackhawks and averaged 14:27 of ice time. He scored his first career NHL goal in his second appearance in a 3-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 2.

But with Connor Murphy (groin) eligible to come off long-term injured reserve on Saturday, the Blackhawks had to make a corresponding move to become cap compliant and Boqvist was the obvious candidate to be sent back down.

He’s still in the early stages of his development, but Boqvist certainly held his own at the NHL level during his brief stint. The Blackhawks want him to continue playing top pairing minutes and in all situations, and it would’ve been difficult for him to do that in Chicago with Murphy returning to the lineup.

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Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner tandem proving to be exactly what Blackhawks envisioned

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AP

Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner tandem proving to be exactly what Blackhawks envisioned

LAS VEGAS — The first day of NHL free agency is always exciting for hockey fans, particularly the first hour when most of the moves are announced at a rapid rate. Last offseason, the Blackhawks had a quiet few hours before dropping the hammer on the most surprising signing of the day, Robin Lehner, to a one-year deal.

“I think we have the best 1-2 punch in the league is the way I look at it right now,” GM Stan Bowman said on July 1. “I certainly feel really comfortable going into next season, whether Corey Crawford’s in net or Robin Lehner’s in net.”

So does the entire city of Chicago.

More than one month into the 2019-20 season, the goaltending tandem between Crawford and Lehner is exactly what the Blackhawks envisioned it would be. That’s what happens when you pair a Vezina Trophy finalist with a two-time Stanley Cup winner.

"We got two guys who are outstanding," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I think they're both going real well now and that's a huge advantage for us no matter who's in the net, we're getting a chance to win. It gives our guys a chance to come through offensively, so they've been big for us."

After starting the season 1-4-0 with a 3.67 goals-against average and .888 percentage, Crawford has been lights out since the calendar flipped to November. He’s 2-0-2 with a 2.72 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in his last four starts, which includes a 39-save performance in a 5-3 win over the Golden Knights on Wednesday.

Lehner has been one of the league’s best from the beginning. His .934 save percentage ranks second among goaltenders with at least six appearances and his goals saved above average at 5-on-5 ranks fourth-best, according to Natural Stat Trick. Crawford's goals saved above average of 4.21 puts him at ninth.

And this is despite the fact the Blackhawks are giving up the most shots on goal per game (37.1), second-most high danger chances per 60 minutes at even strength (13.1) and third-most scoring chances per 60 minutes at even strength (29.2).

While the dynamic may have been awkward at first, both goaltenders appear to be making the best of the circumstances and view it as healthy competition.

"I mean, he's doing a great job," Crawford said of Lehner. "Definitely keeping us in games or being a big factor in some wins. I think both of us are just trying to be at our best when we get the chance."

The challenging part of the situation is getting both guys a fair amount of starts. Crawford has been vocal about preferring to start regularly — “it’s a little bit easier when you keep playing games in a row” — and Lehner no doubt feels the same.

"They both want to play 60 games, 80 games maybe,” Colliton said. “That's part of the team. [Patrick Kane] wants to play 60 minutes. It's how it is. Ultimately, we want to make decisions that help the team win and part of that is keeping both guys fresh, keeping both guys playing at a high level and I think that's going to be a benefit for us as the season goes on."

It’s a good problem to have if you’re the Blackhawks, especially if Crawford and Lehner are at the top of their games at the same time like they are right now.

"It's great," Calvin de Haan said. "I think goaltending's the most important position. If you're not keeping the puck out of the net, you're not going to win a lot of games. But those guys are giving us a chance every night and it's really evident the past few weeks here."

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