Blackhawks

Five Things: Blackhawks will benefit from some time off

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Five Things: Blackhawks will benefit from some time off

RALEIGH, N.C. — Well, that was a forgettable one, wasn’t it?

The Blackhawks didn’t want to repeat their pre-Christmas outing, but that’s pretty much what they did when they lost to the Carolina Hurricanes, 5-0, on Tuesday night. It was a forgettable outing entering the All-Star break, a respite the Blackhawks clearly need. So before we all power down for a few days, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ loss to Carolina.

1. This team needs a rest. The Blackhawks didn’t want to talk about the break or how much they might need the break. They didn’t have to: It was pretty clear from their play the last few games, and especially Tuesday’s outing, that they need to recharge. In their three recent losses, the Blackhawks have just one goal. Yep, whether they’re heading to a beach or heading home, the Blackhawks need to take advantage of the next few days.

2. Jonathan Toews fighting through it. Toews, who was fighting illness the past few days, did not play at all in the third period. Toews had taken some morning skates off which, considering how much hockey he’s played, wasn’t a huge surprise — he was still playing every game. But with the Blackhawks losing, 5-0, after two, it was a good time for Toews to shut it down.

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3. Corey Crawford pulled, but ... Crawford’s early exit was not about him. He’s been stellar these last few weeks. But with the Blackhawks having an awful outing in front of him, coach Joel Quenneville looked to stoke the team fire by benching Crawford. It didn’t really work, but if nothing else, Crawford got another 40 minutes of well-deserved rest.

4. Joakim Nordstrom scores against his former team. Nordstrom is getting an opportunity with the Hurricanes — second line currently — that he probably wasn’t going to get with the Blackhawks. And lately he’s made the most of it. Nordstrom scored his fifth goal of the season, and his third in as many games, against the Blackhawks on Tuesday. Nordstrom was always a hard worker. Good to see him taking advantage of the chance he’s received in Carolina.

5. No goals again. This is likely another sign of fatigue, but this was the second of their three losses in which the Blackhawks were held scoreless (Florida beat them 4-0 on Friday). When the second line isn’t even anywhere on the score sheet, you know it’s a bad night.

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!