Blackhawks

Hawks united, centered with mind games on

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Hawks united, centered with mind games on

Friday, April 22, 2011Posted: 8:10 p.m.
By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com
If the Canucks were going to go back to Vancouver after Game Four, the Blackhawks thought they might as well go with them. If the Hawks were coming back home after Game Five, why not make the Presidents Trophy champs add to their miles, too?

Thats a lot cuter and easier-sounding than the reality, but the mind games have certainly begun.

WATCH: Luongo shaves playoff beard

Before we start crowning the defending champs as the next Miracle on Ice, lets keep in mind 44 other teams in NHL history have turned 3-0 deficits to 3-2, and only three have overcome. And besides the 10-1-2 stretch that bridged February into March, the Hawks havent been very consistent this season. They have to be now.

On paper, most NHL executives might take Vancouvers roster over these Hawks. The question now becomes if Jonathan Toews and company can keep a firm hold on momentum while continue raising the doubts of the team theyve KOd from the past two post-seasons.

You compare the last two games to the first three its definitely more fun now, said the captain Friday afternoon upon returning from Vancouver. Weve been in a battle a long time. Things have tilted our way and were playing our best hockey of the year when it counts. Every single guys buying into that. Were saying we have the potential to do something special if we keep going that way, and were not holding anything back.

While Toews has yet to score a goal (three assists) in this series, he continues doing everything else in his job description, and doing it quite well. Hes not letting the personal offensive snakebite get in the way of other things, but as Tracey Myers accurately indicated in her in-game Tweets during Game Five, the chances hes been getting the last couple of games would seem to bode well to join Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith with multiple mentions on the scoresheet.

Hossa started having a greater presence in the Game Four rout, before scoring twice and setting up another in Game Five. Hed already been reminded about scoring a total of three goals in his 26-game Blackhawks career before Thursday night.

Then theres Keith, who has four goals and two assists the last three games. The Norris Trophy winner has alluded to not quite being himself this season, but he provided some clarity upon getting off the team plane at OHare.

This year for mes been frustrating. Ive felt Ive had really good stretches and times where I dont want to say lose my focus, or not interested, but just good stretches and bad stretches. More inconsistency than I wouldve liked. Im trying to have a good playoff here and do what I can to help the team keep going.

Keiths known for his devotion to conditioning, and is a creature of habit during the season, and in the off-season. Last summer was hardly your typical off-season, even if he had the best possible reason for it not being typical.

I like to work out and train a lot, and Im not making excuses but I didnt feel excited coming back to start a season. Once you get a bad start that you dont like or arent happy with, it kind of snowballs in some ways. You think youre getting out of it, and it comes back and becomes a mental thing. It makes you appreciate having a good start.

Hes playing his best hockey, Toews says. Its been awhile since weve seen him play that well. He was just all over the place. There isnt anything he wasnt doing (Thursday night). He was getting into the mix after the whistle. He wasnt afraid to get in there. Hes been deadly with his shot from the point. Whether its the power play or the penalty kill, hes our top guy right now.

Part of the bad start to this series was Raffi Torress Game Three hit on Brent Seabrook, which has sidelined Keiths best friend, frequent defensive partner, and fellow Olympian.

Keith and the Hawks arent admitting to the non-suspension of Torres being a rallying point, just topping off the embarrassment of being on the brink of elimination so quickly. The team hopes to have a better idea of Seabrooks possible return when he takes to the ice Saturday morning, probably before the regular practice.

Were still realistic and know were in a tough spot and facing elimination, said Keith. A lot of our motivation comes from that.

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

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!