Five Things from Game 3: Penalties cost Blackhawks

Five Things from Game 3: Penalties cost Blackhawks

The Blackhawks were used to writing the script when leading after two periods, and it usually included a very positive ending.

Well, on Sunday it didn’t. And with that, things have gotten very interesting in their first-round series against the St. Louis Blues. Are the Blues a different team this season? Do the Blackhawks have what it takes to come back in another playoff series? We’ll just focus on this game for now. So as we head out into what remains daylight, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 3-2 loss to the Blues.

1.    Costly penalties. The Blackhawks still haven’t taken many of them, but the Blues made them pay for two on Sunday. The first was Viktor Svedberg’s high-sticking, after which the Blues scored a power-play goal seven seconds later. The breaker, however, was Patrick Kane’s double-minor high-sticking late in the third period. The kill, which has been so much better lately, couldn’t contain the Blues. But Jonathan Toews said, “it’s playoff hockey. They’re hungry and they want to create on the power play. Sometimes it’s a matter of time before you let one in. You look at that four-minute one tonight, that’s something that can go one or two ways. We have to look at it as a big kill that we have to come up with and give our team momentum. Unfortunately we couldn’t quite get it.”

2.    Brian Elliott shines again. Hey, you can’t say the Blackhawks didn’t test the Blues goaltender. But Elliott was stellar again on Sunday, especially in the second period when the Blackhawks fired 24 shots his way. The Blackhawks were looking for every way possible to beat Elliott in that period. Artem Anisimov did. Andrew Ladd did, too, but his shot hit both posts. The Blues got the necessary goals in the third period but Elliott’s help in keeping this one a one-goal game cannot be measured. 

3.    Oh, and Corey Crawford was damn good, too. I joked on Twitter that I’m no longer asking Crawford if he’s recovered from his upper-body injury. We get it: he’s just fine. Two of the shots he was beat on deflected off teammates. His multi-shot stop sequence in the second period was exhilarating. To Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, those stops had their effect at the time. “I thought those saves had a big impact on our emotional level. We were discouraged after that and I thought Chicago swung momentum [its] way. We were discouraged, a little bit down on the bench because of it.”

4.    Brent Seabrook’s howitzer. We’ve said it often: Seabrook has a great shot and can’t take it enough. With that shot he gave the Blackhawks something they haven’t been used to in this series: the first lead. Seabrook, who took six shots on goal on Sunday, was also very physical. He finished with a team-high seven hits. 

5.    Not the same Blues team. One area where the Blackhawks have long had the postseason edge is mental toughness. Well the Blues showed a lot of it in Game 3. Down 2-1 after two, allowing a ton of shots, it didn’t matter. The Blues persevered and now have a lead in this series. Said Crawford, “whatever happens in the season, whatever’s happened in years before, [it is] not the same team.”

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


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!