Blackhawks

Five things from Blackhawks-Ducks Game 6: Shaw's clutch play

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Five things from Blackhawks-Ducks Game 6: Shaw's clutch play

At this time of year you need big performances. It doesn’t really matter from whom they come: a role player, a superstar who’s used to doing it all time, whoever.

The Blackhawks got the necessary outings from guys in both those categories on Wednesday night, as they beat the Anaheim Ducks 5-2 and forced a Game 7 in the Western Conference Finals. So instead of us blathering on during these set-up paragraphs, let’s just cut to the gist and give you Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ Game 6 victory.

1. Duncan Keith is a machine. It’s official: he’s not human. The defenseman who coach Joel Quenneville called “a freak” when it comes to his fitness level and ability to get better the longer he plays, Keith was tremendous with a three-assist, plus-3 night on Wednesday. Said Brandon Saad, “being around a few years, it’s something that’s expected, really. He brings it every night and the minutes he logs and the vision he has out there to have a patient game and make those plays you saw on the [Marian] Hossa goal it’s pretty incredible.”

[MORE: Big second period proves to be difference for Blackhawks in Game 6 win]

2. Andrew Shaw’s critical goals. The Ducks had all the momentum in the third period, the one in which there wasn’t a whistle for about eight minutes. They scored early in the third to make it 3-2 Blackhawks, they kept pushing and they kept the Blackhawks on the defensive. Then Shaw scored the first of his two, giving the Blackhawks a 4-2 lead andgiving fans a chance to exhale. “They’re all pretty special,” Shaw said of playoff goals. “They don’t come around too often. You play good in your own zone, those offensive chances are going tocome.”

3. Getting more physical. Anaheim’s a bruising team, and part of their plan is to wear down the Blackhawks with a lot of hits. On Wednesday the Blackhawks hit back, recording 38 hits to the Ducks’ 43. Bryan Bickell had three on one of his first-period shifts. Shaw finished with a team-high seven hits. In our opinion, the Blackhawks don’t want to get into that hit-for-hit game; it’s not theirs. But for one night, they liked giving back what they’ve taken the past few games.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

4. The “man-child” comes through again. Yes, Brandon Saad is going to get paid handsomely this summer. Saad, who had three goals through his first 13 postseason games, has scored two in his last three contests. Both were the Blackhawks’ first goals of their respective games (4 and 6). Saad’s size and speed have been big factors down this series’ stretch.

5. Confidence heading into Game 7. The Blackhawks have it. Will it benefit them? The Ducks have failed to close inprevious Game 7s but this isn’t the same Ducks team of the past. They’ll be strong and they’ll be ready at the Honda Center, where they’ve lost just one game this postseason (Game 2 vs. the Blackhawks). Still, there’s something to be said for experience. “We’ve had some good games there this year and in the playoffs. But it’s like anything else: it’s one game, and it’s just a matter of going out an executing in the one game,” Keith said. “We have experience being on the road; you try to draw on that as much as you can and do the best you can.”

Blackhawks make it official: Corey Crawford is back

Blackhawks make it official: Corey Crawford is back

He’s back.

Corey Crawford was officially activated from injured reserve on Thursday and will start in goal for the first time since Dec. 23, 2017 when the Blackhawks host the Arizona Coyotes.

"It’s exciting," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I’m sure he’s looking forward to it and we’re all excited about it as well. It’ll be a fun situation for the guys, seeing him back in the net as well. So we’re looking for everyone to be excited about tonight’s game."

The two-time Stanley Cup champion was medically cleared to practice from his concussion on Oct. 1, but the Blackhawks wanted to give Crawford as much time as he needed to get his conditioning and puck-tracking skills up to game speed before putting him into game action.

"It feels good to be back to myself," Crawford said on Wednesday. "I'm feeling good, I'm feeling clear. It was a pretty long process. ... Practices have been great, been getting timing a little bit more and getting up to speed and reading shots and all that, so it'll be nice to finally get in one."

To make room for Crawford on the 23-man roster, the Blackhawks have assigned forward Luke Johnson to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League. Brandon Saad, who wore a white healthy scratch jersey all week at practice, will take his spot in the lineup.

For now, the Blackhawks will hang on to Anton Forsberg and carry three goaltenders as insurance as they get ready to start a seven-games-in-11-days stretch.

Crawford was 16-9-2 with a 2.27 goals against average, .929 save percentage and two shutouts in 28 games last season. The Blackhawks were 17-30-8 without him and finished last in the Central Division.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: