Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: Team looking to lock up Crawford

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Hawk Talk: Team looking to lock up Crawford

Thursday, March 24, 2011
Posted: 5:18 p.m.

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

While the Blackhawks continue proceeding down the stretch for now without Patrick Sharp, theyre already taking steps to make Corey part of their long-term core.

In a sitdown interview with Comcast SportsNet Thursday (part of which will air Thursday on SportsNet Central and Saturday on Chevy Blackhawks Pregame Live), Blackhawks Vice President and General Manager Stan Bowman says the process has begun in hopes of locking up rookie goaltender Corey Crawford before he becomes a restricted free agent following this season.

Weve reached out and were gonna try to do something here, Bowman said in the United Centers Harris Club. The timing is delicate and you dont want it to become a distraction but we certainly have an interest in trying to get something done. I think hes performed very well for us this year. Looking back from where hes come not only having a foothold in the NHL at the beginning, when he started a handful of games, but watching his progression as hes gotten more responsibility, hes risen to the challenge. Thats what you look for in goaltenders. When they get the increased workload, can they handle it? Hes kind of unflappable and doesnt get rattled by much. I think thats a strength of his. Hes obviously talented. Hes got the physical capabilities, but the mental side is important as well, and hes been rock-solid for us.

Bowman will have more salary cap flexibility to use with Crawford this off-season, compared to last year, when some tough financial decisions led to Stanley Cup-winning goalie Antti Niemi becoming a free agent. He eventually signed with San Jose, where he recently inked a four-year contract extension.

As for Sharp, through the first few days of rehab on whats believed to be a left knee injury, Bowman says the two- to three-week estimate for his return hasnt changed.

Timetables the same. I cant say hes progressing any differently than expected. The good news is he was through this a couple of years ago and had a similar kind of injury late in the year, as well (when Sharp was sidelined a month and missed 16 games), so he knows how to progress, and the rehab steps. Hes upbeat. I talked with him the other day and hes real optimistic and feels pretty good already, but it shouldnt be any different than we first planned.

Sharps already part of the core (though hes a candidate for unrestricted free agency following next season), and Crawford could be added to it next, but Bowman credits the existing stars on the roster whove led the team through a 20-game stretch in which theyve gone 13-3-4. That includes a brief stretch in which head coach Joel Quenneville was benched by an ulcer.

Theyve been through it before. They know how to handle pressure and perform under pressure, the G.M. explained, referring to the likes of Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, and Sharp. Thats what makes them so great, and I think thats what separates a good player from a great player. Its being able to play under difficult situations, and maybe when you are a bit short-handed, those guys pick up a little more of the responsibility. We were looking for that, and its been nice to see that happen with the younger players finding their roles as well, and thats helped us get on this roll and accumulate some good streaks.

I dont think motivation was an issue early on. We just had a lot of things happening. We had a lot of new faces, more so than most teams players that werent necessarily new to the organization but hadnt been here before. So that first month, six weeks, we were trying to figure out where these guys fit. There were a lot of games early on. Everyone was up for playing against us, so we had to be on top of our game. Before we knew it, wed dug ourselves a hole, and weve been playing catch-up for a long time. It wasnt so much motivation as it was getting all the new faces roles ironed out with their comfort level. Unfortunately, it takes time.

Among the new faces whove helped the ones whove been around awhile are this seasons blue-line additions. With crunch-time having arrived, Quennevilles reunited Keith and Seabrook as his shutdown pair. Making that decision easier has been the quality depth provided by Nick Leddy and Chris Campoli. Bowman acquired Leddy a couple of weeks prior to last years trade deadline, and loves the 19-year-olds composure since hes been back from a stint at Rockford, then the World Junior Championships.

He likes to make plays (instead of) just banging the puck off the boards and off the glass, and thats complimented our skill players and if you talk to some of them Toews and Kane they like playing with him because theyre going to get the puck and not have to chase it all night long. Now hes a much more composed and confident player than he was.

As for this years Deadline Day pickup, Campoli:

Its almost like since Day 1, hes fit right in here and like he was with us all year. Its a testament to his ability and the style of hockey we play. Its a good match with how he likes to hold onto the puck. Those are things we were hoping would happen when we were considering different players to acquire (at the trade deadline), but he fit the bill best in terms of his style of play.

The Blackhawks will accept just fighting off enough of the other Western Conference contenders and getting into the playoffs to defend their Cup. After that, the higher seed, the better. But no matter what, it seems theres a growing sentiment among national and Canadian media to see a first-round matchup between the Hawks and Vancouver, following two second-round knockouts of the Nucks the past two years.

Well play anybody at this point, Bowman responded when asked if hes fine with that possibility. The way the standings are and because the West is so competitive, I think any team can beat any other team in the first round. We saw last year I think the first round was probably the most challenging round you face Looking back at the Nashville series, we were really struggling there. It was a miraculous Game Five comeback there, and if not for that you dont know how that playoff round goes.

Chris Boden is the host of Blackhawks Pre and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet.

It's time for Blackhawks to develop Dach and Boqvist

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USA Today

It's time for Blackhawks to develop Dach and Boqvist

It's no secret things are rough for the Blackhawks, who are 12-15-6, right now. They've lost four straight games, been outscored 14-6 in their past three and are last place in the Central division.

The team reached a new low after blowing a third period three-goal lead in St. Louis Saturday night and falling 4-3 in regulation to the Blues. A brutal turnover in the Hawks' defensive zone from Alex Nylander gave St. Louis their first goal of the game and all the momentum they needed to win. Nylander didn't miss a shift after.

"Okay, that was a mistake," Hawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said of Nylander's egregious error after the game. "But there was a mistake on the entry, there was a mistake on the coverage where we double up. 

"If we bench everyone who makes a mistake, we're not going to have any players. So yeah, there's a time and place for that no question, but I think that the real issue is that up and down the lineup we don't do the right things all the time every shift. And again, until that changes, it's hard to win."

If the team's play has reached a level where they're doing the wrong things so consistently an individual can't be punished with missing a shift, then you might as well throw center Kirby Dach and defenseman Adam Boqvist some more responsibility. 

Saturday we learned Dach, 18, would be sticking with the Hawks and not playing in the World Junior Championships and Sunday we learned the same about Boqvist, 19.

Dach, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, and Boqvist, selected No. 8 overall in the 2018 draft, have the highest ceilings of all the Hawks' youngsters and look to be the biggest pieces of the franchise's future moving forward. 

The Hawks made the decision to burn the first year of Dach's contract earlier this season. If Boqvist plays Sunday night, it'll be his 10th game with Chicago this year, meaning the first year of his contract will be burnt as well. Seeing as he's still with the club and not headed to World Juniors, it's likely to happen sooner rather than later. 

As the team struggles, why not see what Dach, a big two-way center can do and give him the reps and situational experience to improve. Have him play 16-17 minutes a night instead of the 13:03 he logged in St. Louis Saturday. The rookie already has five goals and five assists with limited ice time.

Since the D seems to struggle shift to shift as it is, why not let Boqvist, a puck-moving defenseman with a great shot, hold onto it more and let it rip? 

Defenseman Dennis Gilbert, who's only played in 10 games for Chicago the past two season, logged 19:03 of ice time in St. Louis to Boqvist's 14:56. Boqvist needs to be out there more. He needs to spend time quarterbacking every power play as he's expected to do for years to come in a Hawks sweater. 

Let the kids play. Up their ice time, give them more minutes and let them see tough matchups. At this point, I can't imagine it can hurt the Hawks more than they're already hurting. Building Dach and Boqvist's skillset, comfort and confidence now is building a better future for the Blackhawks. 

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Blackhawks hit new low after epic collapse in St. Louis

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USA Today

Blackhawks hit new low after epic collapse in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS — The Blackhawks needed something to feel good about going into a Central Division showdown against the reigning Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues. A solid 60-minute effort would've sufficed, but a win would've trumped all, no matter how they got it. Two points translates into confidence and confidence turns into belief.

Well, both the Blackhawks' confidence and belief are starting to run thin after hitting a new low in Saturday's 4-3 loss.

For the second time in 10 days, the Blackhawks squandered a three-goal lead in the third period by giving up four unanswered goals in a span of 13:16 to a Blues team that, quite frankly, dominated the entire game. The Blues led in shot attempts (65-40), shots on goal (38-22), even-strength scoring chances (34-13) and even-strength high-danger chances (14-2), according to Natural Stat Trick, but couldn't crack a red-hot Corey Crawford until the third period. 

It was an epic collapse for the Blackhawks, who lost their fourth in a row and for the 10th time in 13 games. And there are no words to describe it.

"It shows where we're at," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We're not good enough in those situations. All we can do is continue to talk about and show the team and work together to make it better. That's the only way it gets better. We recognize the problem. We've got to find a way to take a step. I think we have taken steps at times, but it's not consistent enough."

The Blackhawks are a fragile team right now and you could see it in their body language from the opening faceoff, almost as if they're starting the game already down a couple goals. Can you remember the last time they opened a game by dictating the terms?

In dark times like these, your best players have to step up and take control and they did that on Saturday.

Brandon Saad scored twice, Jonathan Toews registered two primary assists, Patrick Kane ended a six-game goal drought and Crawford stopped the first 32 shots he faced before the Blues' third-period onslaught. And yet it still wasn’t enough.

Brent Seabrook and Toews — two members of the Blackhawks’ leadership group — were sitting at their stalls after the game awaiting the media and made no excuses. They accepted responsibility and acknowledged being in this position is unacceptable.

"Being out there in those situations, you got to take pride in it," Seabrook said. "I know I take a lot of pride in it. ... I know I'm on there for two [goals], the second and third one. It's a critical part of the game and I've got to be better in those moments."

"That sucks to blow that one with the lead that we had," Toews said. "But there's situations where we've got to get pucks out and I lost my check a few times."

So what now? Where do the Blackhawks go from here? Will it get worse before it gets better? 

Is the season even salvageable?

"Why not? One game at a time," Toews said. "We had a rough week. ... It's easy to look at the storyline and get really discouraged and come up with the wrong mentality in your mind about what can happen going forward, but it's the wrong way to go about it. We've just got to focus on tomorrow night and build off the things we keep doing well. Each guy has to look at himself and try to find ways to bring more out of himself every night."

The Blackhawks have been searching for answers all season and they’re not getting any closer to finding a solution. They’re getting further away from it.

A drastic change might be necessary, but the frustration stems from the Blackhawks knowing what the problem is on the ice and still not doing anything about it.

"We need to, when the game's on the line, buckle down, stop and start, make the right read,” Colliton said. “I know they know and I know we as a group know what we have to do to have success and it's just a matter of doing it."

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