Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: Players Gather to Work Out Problems

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Hawk Talk: Players Gather to Work Out Problems

Saturday, Mar. 27, 2010
5:37 P.M.

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

Turns out it wasnt a total day off for the Blackhawks following their worst, most embarrassing loss of the season. Yes, Joel Quenneville kept his players off the ice. But he didnt let them off the hook for their 8-3 whipping by a Columbus team that went into that game ranked 24th in the NHL in offense.

A sign of a good team and we have one here is if someone makes a mistake, youre held accountable, somebody tells you, Adam Burish said after he and the rest of the Hawks got back in their skates for practice Saturday. We had a little meeting yesterday and Q addressed the issues that we had. Some of the guys said a few things to each other. Thats what a team has to do, what a good team does. Maybe thats a reason a day off, too, was good we addressed the issues, talked about it, kinda pulled the elephant out of the bag. There it is, lets address it, lets figure out whats wrong and lets not hide it, not put it away or not talk about it. Address it, get it out on the table. Now..lets put it away and move forward.

Burish spoke in general terms what was discussed. It was the way we played, the way we defended. Just a lot of things. What was said in the meeting, Ill keep it in here. Like I said, it wasnt one guy or one thing, just a combination. The tone was, weve got ten games left to play the way we wanna play play the right way and thats whats gonna carry us into the playoffs.

Youve never seen a team kind of limping into the playoffs, playing garbage hockey in the last ten games, then all of a sudden, play awesome. You know that, so you have to play good going into the playoffs, got to feel good about your game, and have confidence. So weve got to find that. Obviously, Detroits probably playing with a ton of confidence right now and separated themselves for that eighth spot, playing as good as they have all year. So weve got to get to that level.

I think we cant be too happy with what took place the night before, so that needed to be addressed, Joel Quenneville said of Fridays get-together. You cant be happy with a game like that. We play them next. We should be excited about tomorrow.

As Antti Niemi returns to the net Sunday night, Quenneville still wouldnt publicly proclaim him as his number-one goalie after two shutouts his last three starts and Cristobal Huets struggles. I did ask the Head Coach about the popular suggestion making the rounds that with his team in a fight for playoff positioning the final nine games, over 15 days the best way Huet can get his (admittedly shaken) confidence back in time for the post-season would be a handful of games at Rockford.

I dont even think you can do that, but thats not under consideration at all. You want to be playing your best, we know the importance of goaltending. Anttis coming off several sharp games in a row. I think we want to make sure theyre both comfortable and confident. Thats what well be working on.

Niemi would be experiencing his first taste of the NHL playoffs, and his Finnish League post-season experience wasnt anything close to the upcoming grind that begins in just two weeks. The 26-year-old was in net for six playoff games in each of his two seasons with the Pelicans of SM-Liga, and two games for Rockford last spring.

Thats another reason Fridays meeting needs to provide more productive play - and results - on the ice. The way Detroits been playing, the Hawks may well avoid them in the first round, as the Wings could inch up as high as fifth or sixth in the conference playoff standings these next two weeks. But everyone in that locker room seems to be aware of the need to ramp up their own play, no matter whom they face.

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!