Blackhawks

Five Things from Game 5: Blackhawks must regroup faster

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Five Things from Game 5: Blackhawks must regroup faster

NASHVILLE — Desperation: it usually brings out the best in a team that’s facing it. It’s what can make eliminating a team on the postseason ropes so difficult.

The Blackhawks found that out first hand on Thursday night, when the Predators scored three goals within three-plus minutes to start the third period en route to their 5-2 victory. The Blackhawks, still up 3-2 in the first-round series, will try to wrap this up again at 7 p.m. CT Saturday when they host the Predators in Game 6.

So before we head back home, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ Game 5 loss on Thursday night.

[MORE: Blackhawks unravel in third period, fall to Predators in Game 5]

1. Scott Darling is fine. The backup-turned-postseason-starting goaltender lost his first playoff game on Thursday night but he could shoulder only so much blame. Coach Joel Quenneville wasn’t blaming Darling, and it sounds like he’ll go back to him for Game 6. Darling handled the situation just fine. Considering the adversity he’s gone through in his life in the past, we’re guessing he’ll put the rare (this season) tough outing behind him fast.

2. Regroup faster. James Neal’s wraparound goal gave the Predators a 2-1 lead just 47 seconds into the third period and set the Blackhawks off on a bad chain of events. Michal Rozsival was whistled for a penalty and the Predators scored on that power play. Twelve seconds after that goal the Blackhawks gave up another one to go down 4-1 in no time. As Quenneville said, “we’ve given them some funny goals this series.” Going down 4-1 in about three minutes, however, wasn’t so amusing.

3. Colin Wilson is having himself a series. Of the offensive weapons the Predators have, who would’ve picked this guy to be the one to befuddle the Blackhawks? Wilson had a good regular season, recording 20 goals in 77 games. Well, he now has five — yes five — goals in as many games against the Blackhawks in this series. Not too shabby.

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4. James Neal is warming up, too. The Blackhawks held him off the scoresheet the first three games but he now has three points, including two goals, in the past two games. His goal started the Predators’ third-period barrage on Thursday night. The Blackhawks will have to be careful Neal doesn’t keep hurting them.

5. Home sweet home. The Blackhawks have played well at the United Center the past few postseasons, and they’re 2-0 there in this first-round series. So they’re confident going back there for Game 6. Asked if there’s still hope to finish this off, Brad Richards said, “well, yeah, it’s more than hope. We’ll get up and get back to work here.”

 

 

 

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!