Blackhawks

Five Things from Game 7: Saad making a name for himself

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Five Things from Game 7: Saad making a name for himself

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Well, here we are again. Or maybe we should say, here the Blackhawks are again.

For all the concerns at the end of the regular season, when the goals and the victories were in short supply, the Blackhawks are heading to the Stanley Cup Final for the third time in the past six seasons.

Call it determination. Call it hitting their stride at the right time. Regardless, the Blackhawks had to go through a tough Anaheim Ducks team to get there, and they made a statement with their 5-3 victory in Game 7 on Saturday night.

But enough of us prattling on here; we know you’re tired. So let’s get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ Western Conference final triumph over the Ducks.

[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Blackhawks cruise past Ducks, headed to Stanley Cup Final]

1. Jonathan Toews leads in every way possible. Toews just about led the Blackhawks to a Game 5 victory with his two late-regulation goals in that one. And he was why the Blackhawks got off to a tremendous start in Game 7, scoring the team’s first two goals. There’s plenty to say about Toews — we’ll save that for another story — but the postseason is about top players being leaders off, but especially on, the ice. The Blackhawks got that with Toews.

2. Brandon Saad is making a name for himself. And soon enough, Saad will be making some serious cash for himself, thanks in part to his postseason. Saad added another goal on Saturday, his sixth of the playoffs, and he drew a penalty with his speed on a breakaway short-handed attempt in the second period. Saad got his chance to be a top-line guy as a rookie; he’s just kept earning his time there since.

3. Duncan Keith is still OK. Another game, another (nearly) 28 minutes of ice time, another two assists and another great performance for Keith. About midway through this series we stopped asking how the minutes and physical play were affecting the Blackhawks’ top four defensemen; three of the four, fine, but it was obvious Keith was feeling no effects. Told he looked “spry” following the game Keith asked, “What does spry mean?” All kidding aside, he looks like he’s ready to keep logging those minutes and playing well through them.

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get a Duncan Keith jersey right here]

4. Don’t forget about Brent Seabrook. The Ducks had their second goal (from Corey Perry) and momentum midway through the third period. Then the Blackhawks got a power play, and Seabrook, who comes up big this time of year, scored a power-play goal to restore a three-goal lead. Seabrook gets overshadowed by Keith a lot, but there’s no doubt he’s been a big contributor the past few postseasons, especially with critical goals.

5. Mental toughness remains. Whenever there’s a Game 7, you never know how it’s going to go. The Ducks were back home, where they had lost just one previous game this postseason — to the Blackhawks. They had lost just once in regulation this postseason — to the Blackhawks. Still, would this be the year the Ducks broke through? It wasn’t, mainly because the Blackhawks have that will at this time of year, know how to win and wasted no time in getting up on the Ducks in Game 7. Coach Joel Quenneville said, “Commend the guys’ perseverance, finding different ways through different challenges.”

Corey Crawford expects to make season debut for Blackhawks on Thursday vs. Arizona

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USA TODAY

Corey Crawford expects to make season debut for Blackhawks on Thursday vs. Arizona

The wait is almost over.

After missing nearly 10 months with a concussion, Corey Crawford said he expects to start on Thursday when the Blackhawks take on the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center. An official decision will come following the team's morning skate.

"It feels good to be back to myself," Crawford said. "I'm feeling good, I'm feeling clear. ... It was a pretty long process. But I think the most important thing was not to rush anything. When I finally was out, it got to a point where I wasn’t in shape to play and it was time to rest and it’s unfortunate it took a lot longer than I would’ve liked. 

"It’s been long, but finally, just to get back and be practicing with the team has meant a lot. It’s good to get to this point now when you’re really close to playing. 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."

Crawford's last appearance in an NHL game was Dec. 23, 2017 against the New Jersey Devils when he allowed three goals on seven shots in 13:22 of action before getting pulled. So of course, emotions will naturally be running high, especially in front of the hometown crowd.

"I'm sure I'll be a little anxious getting into it," Crawford said. "Some nerves. But we'll see. We'll wait until the morning, but I'm definitely excited I can tell you that."

It's obviously terrific news for the Blackhawks, who have picked up eight out of a possible 10 points to start the season and are getting their two-time Stanley Cup winning goalie back between the pipes. It's been a long time coming, and Crawford is coming back into a healthy situation where the Blackhawks are in a good spot in the standings.

"It's great news, I'm sure it'll be exciting for him exciting for our team, exciting for our fans and the organization as well," Patrick Kane said. "It’s probably a good situation all around. Cam [Ward] has done a great job of playing in the net so far. Crow is really good in practice right now, so I’m sure he’s itching to get back, too. We’ve had a good start here. It’s something we want to keep going, and I’m sure him coming back on home ice, in front of our crowd, will be a fun one for him and for our team."

There's no doubting how important Crawford is the team and organization. While there may be a little bit of rust early on, the Blackhawks are expecting him to look like his old self.

"He means a lot to the team," Quenneville said. "We felt last year was a good example of how important he was and how well he was playing for us, as well. We’ve gotten off to a decent start and he was a big factor in it. We know that goaltending is such a big part of the team and your success a lot of nights depends on him and his consistency’s always been in place.

"But he looks good in the net. He’s been off for a long, long time. Is there rust? Do we expect rust? I think the way he’s competing and practicing and finding pucks, he looks like he hasn’t missed a beat. So we’re looking forward to him getting in there and getting comfortable and how he’s feeling going forward will dictate a lot of the decisions about him going back in."

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Charlie Roumeliotis and Slavko Bekovic provide their thoughts on the Blackhawks’ 3-0-2 start.

They also discuss Brandon Saad’s demotion and whether it could serve as a wake-up call, Corey Crawford’s potential return on Thursday vs. Arizona and what could happen with Anton Forsberg because of it, and address the power play concerns.

The guys wrap up the podcast by making a few bold predictions going forward.

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