Blackhawks

Five Things: Blackhawks' Marian Hossa is still a tremendous two-way player

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Five Things: Blackhawks' Marian Hossa is still a tremendous two-way player

Once upon a time I received an email that started off, “You’re good, you’re not great.”

Besides being the greatest start of any email ever, that could also describe the Blackhawks on Saturday night: good, not great. As we’ve written here a few times already, however, that’s to be expected after all the offseason changes. Still, the Blackhawks did a few more things right in their 4-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

[MORE: Blackhawks offense wakes up in win over Blue Jackets]

So while we all try to get past good and onto great, let’s look at the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory.

1. Marian Hossa is still a tremendous two-way player. Speaking of great… Hossa was already having a strong game on Saturday when he picked Matt Calvert’s pocket and scored a 5-on-3 goal that gave the Blackhawks a 3-0 lead at the time. The ageless Hossa never ceases to amaze those who see it on a nightly basis. “That was a pretty special play,” Corey Crawford said. “He didn’t quit on that one. We lost the puck at the blue line and he came back and did the rest.”

2. Brandon Saad’s emotional night. You wondered what the reaction would be when Saad returned to the United Center. He and the Blackhawks couldn’t work out a deal but Blackhawks fans greeted him with loud applause and a standing ovation during a first-period video tribute. Saad’s in a much different place now, playing for a Columbus team that’s gotten off to a surprisingly bad start. But Saad did some tremendous things in his time in Chicago, and fans showed how much they appreciated that on Saturday.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

3. A nice debut for Mr. Hinostroza. Vinnie Hinostroza was probably a jumble of nerves when he made his NHL debut on Saturday night but he looked pretty calm on the ice. He brought some stability and a threat to that third line, which had been mediocre through this early season. We’ll see if Hinostroza’s in the lineup when the Blackhawks play on Florida, but he certainly had an energetic start on Saturday.

4. Anisimov answers again. Artem Anisimov gets overshadowed playing with Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane. He’s the non-flashy, non-showy portion of that line. But he’s a steady part of that trio, a big body who will go to the net. He did that again on Saturday and earned his second goal of the season on another backhand shot.

5. Bickell “OK” on the top line. If you’ve listened to coach Joel Quenneville for any amount of time, you know that when he says a player is “OK,” as he said Bryan Bickell was on the top line on Saturday, he means player was not good. So, who’s next at that left-wing spot with Jonathan Toews and Hossa?

How Blackhawks plan to handle Corey Crawford's workload

How Blackhawks plan to handle Corey Crawford's workload

Corey Crawford is back and it didn't look like he skipped much of a beat. The Blackhawks were handed their first regulation loss of the season to the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday, but the 33-year-old netminder stopped 27 of 30 shots (.900 save percentage) in his season debut and made several timely saves to keep his team in it.

In the larger picture, it was a win based on how well Crawford looked between the pipes.

"Yeah, I think it is," coach Joel Quenneville said after practice on Friday. "It's one of things we were wondering, how he would handle post-game and how he came in today. Very encouraging signs. He felt good in all aspects of what he went through and dealt with, and practiced well today too, so that was good."

The first one is in the books.

But what's the plan going forward? Will Crawford be on a "pitch count" or will they treat him like they have in past seasons when he was healthy?

In the past, Crawford has generally started somewhere in between 55-58 games per season. Part of that has been because of injuries. Another part is the Blackhawks have had reliable backups, which allowed them to give Crawford an extra night off here and there to keep him fresh.

It's not unreasonable, though, to think Crawford could flirt with 50 starts, considering he missed only five games to start the season. And they can still accomplish that by playing it safe.

The Blackhawks have 13 more back-to-backs this season, which gives them the opportunity to start Cam Ward at some point in each of them. That leaves room for another 15 or so starts to sprinkle in for Ward that could serve as rest days for Crawford and still being on track to start around 50.

Obviously, the Blackhawks want to be careful with how much they ask of Crawford because concussions are tricky to deal with and every player responds differently to it.

His return comes at a time where the Blackhawks are slated to play seven games in 11 days after playing just two in the previous 10. Thursday marked the start of that stretch.

"He’ll tell us how he feels and we’ll go from there and make those decisions," Quenneville said.

The Blackhawks have been on record saying they prefer not to carry three goaltenders. But in this case it makes sense. At least in the short term.

Quenneville said Friday that the Blackhawks will reevaluate the situation at the end of the weekend following the beginning of a busy stretch where they'll play three games in four days.

"Yeah, that’s the mindset," he said. "Let’s see how we handle these three in four and then we’ll address it."

Crawford is expected to start on Saturday in Columbus, making it his second start in three days. That's when they'll get a better sense of how he's handling things.

If it were up to him, Crawford said he feels he's prepared for it.

"Yeah, sure," Crawford said. "Why not? I've been working hard with [strength and conditioning coach Paul Goodman]. He's got me where I need to be, so I'm in shape right now. Why not?"

Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Jamal Mayers and Charlie Roumeliotis recap Corey Crawford’s season debut after missing nearly 10 months with a concussion.

Mayers talks about the Kitty system that Niklas Hjalmarsson and Vinnie Hinostroza probably dealt with in their returns to Chicago.

The guys also discuss what’s next for Crawford, the upcoming matchup against Artemi Panarin and the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Blackhawks’ biggest areas for improvement.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!