Blackhawks

Five Things from Hawks-Bolts Game 1: Crawford stays stoic

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Five Things from Hawks-Bolts Game 1: Crawford stays stoic

TAMPA, Fla. — The Blackhawks have had plenty of third-period magic in their postseason history. They conjured up a little more on Wednesday night.

After trailing for more than 2 1/2 periods the Blackhawks scored twice in just under two minutes to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, 2-1, in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. It was a thrilling finish to a game that had an energetic start from the Lightning then quieted down considerably before those two Blackhawks goals.

So before we embark on two days of quote gathering before Game 2, let’s look at Five Things to take away from the Blackhawks’ Game 1 victory over Tampa Bay.

[MORE: Late goals fuel Blackhawks victory over Lightning in Game 1]

1. Teuvo Teravainen comes through again. OK, young Finnish forward, we get it: you tell us you’re comfortable, regardless of the stage, and then you go out and prove it. The forward who Marian Hossa described as, “Finnish cold,” Teravainen was cool as could be at a tense time. His third goal of the postseason tied the game and his pick off J.T. Brown set up Antoine Vermette’s game-winner. Added Hossa, “he’s talented, talented guy [with] lots of skills. He sees the ice really well. And he’s showing it in these big Finals games.”

2. Corey Crawford stays stoic. There have been times in the past when Crawford, after going a long stretch without seeing a shot, can be unprepared when he does see one again. Well, that didn’t happen on Wednesday night. Tampa Bay went several minutes without a shot in the third period, but Crawford was ready on Ryan Callahan’s breakaway. Not long after that, Teravainen scored the tying goal. Crawford finished with 22 stops on 23 shots.

3. Kris Versteeg all right? Versteeg, in for an injured Bryan Bickell, didn’t look too healthy in the second period when he went face-first into the goal post. The Blackhawks didn’t pull Versteeg aside immediately to check how he was; instead, he went straight to the penalty box for goaltender interference. Asked afterward if the Blackhawks followed protocol for these situations, coach Joel Quenneville said, “absolutely.” Versteeg said the post run-in “was a little ugly, but I had to collect my thoughts there and go on with the game.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

4. Antoine Vermette improving this postseason, too. Vermette had a rough late regular season with the Blackhawks but he’s helped give them secondary scoring at critical times this postseason. Vermette, whose goal won Game 4 against the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Final, got the winner tonight, too.

5. Lesson learned for the Lightning. Tampa Bay didn’t push things in the third period. Perhaps it was just them getting into a defensive mode. Perhaps it was the Blackhawks dictating the pace more. It may have even been a combination. But Victor Hedman said the Lightning have to learn from that. “We're not happy sitting back the way we did late in the third, but you have to give them credit for the way they played, the way they pushed the pace,” he said. “We definitely have things to learn there from the third but for most of the night I thought we played a really good game. Our effort was there. We played hard, competed hard.”

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!