Blackhawks

Jimmy Waite proud of Blackhawks’ 'steady' goaltending

Jimmy Waite proud of Blackhawks’ 'steady' goaltending

ST. LOUIS – Jimmy Waite figured Corey Crawford and Scott Darling will critique his third-period performance in the Blackhawks-St. Louis Blues alumni game, one in which he gave up goals to Keith Tkachuk and Pierre Turgeon.

“I’ll hear from the boys tomorrow. ‘What are you doing?’” Waite said on Saturday afternoon. “Maybe watch the video and see what I did wrong.”

As far as the reverse critique, the Blackhawks’ goaltending coach is happy with what Crawford and Darling have done this season. So are the rest of the Blackhawks, who know they may not be where they are in the standings if not for those two.

“I just like how steady they are,” Waite said. “They may have had a couple of bad nights all year, so that’s pretty good.”

Crawford has become very steady, especially over the last two seasons. Whether it’s helping a defensively depleted Blackhawks team last season or buoying a hit-and-miss scoring Blackhawks team this season, Crawford has been dependable. Waite said Crawford and Darling have sharpened some aspects of their game lately.

“I think [Crawford’s] post play around the net has improved a lot in the last three years. Same with Scotty. We’ve been working a lot on that,” Waite said. “Their games are very solid. They know how to manage the game very well, know when to challenge and when to stay back and we talk a lot about that and how deep you are in net. That’s important for us.”

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Darling showed he could handle a bigger workload while Crawford recovered from his appendectomy. Could Darling be a No. 1 at some point? Waite could see it.

“He proves it when he has to step in for a period of time he shows he can be a No. 1 and it’s a different thing to be No. 1, to be the guy night in and night out,” said Waite of Darling, who’s also an unrestricted free agent with a Blackhawks team that will, again, have money issues.

“For sure, I’d like to keep him, right?” Waite said of Darling. “But we’ll see with the cap what’s going to happen. A lot of things could change from here to the end of the year so we’ll see. But obviously I’d like to keep my goaltenders. I like them.”

Speaking of that Crawford appendectomy, Waite couldn’t have been the emergency because, as a former professional, he would have counted against the Blackhawks’ salary cap – “yeah, right? I’m too expensive,” Waite said. When Crawford returned from that appendectomy he looked great, taking a tough one-goal loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Dec. 23. Waite said he told Crawford to keep it simple coming off the surgery.

Waite enjoyed his second alumni-game turn in as many seasons – he had a memorable stop against Mike Modano in last year’s game against Minnesota’s alums. Now he’ll go back to keeping Crawford and Darling sharp. So far this season, it’s working.

“When goaltending gives you a chance to win every night, that’s what you’re looking for. So make the key saves at the right time, which makes a big difference in the game,” Waite said. “That’s what they’ve been able to do all year.”

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: What else can the Blackhawks do this summer?

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: What else can the Blackhawks do this summer?

On the latest edition of the Hawks Talk Podcast, Charlie Roumeliotis is joined by Scott Powers of The Athletic to discuss Stan Bowman's comments following the Marian Hossa trade and debate whether they're finished making moves this summer.

They also provide their thoughts on the Blackhawks' top prospects and which players have caught their attention as development camp winds down.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews: 'Our No. 1 goal is getting back to the playoffs'

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews: 'Our No. 1 goal is getting back to the playoffs'

Jonathan Toews watched a lot of playoff hockey this spring. 

"Quite a bit," he admitted Wednesday before making his Chicago Pro Hockey League debut at MB Ice Arena. "More than usual."

That's because the Blackhawks missed out on the postseason for the first time since his rookie year in 2007-08. It's obviously not a position he'd like himself or his team to be in, especially after experiencing three Stanley Cups in a six-year span.

But you have to find a way to take the positives out of it at this point and let it fuel you for the upcoming campaign.

"You always want to be there playing," Toews said. "But when you can maybe step away from the game a little bit and just kind of breathe and — at the same time, look back and realize you’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of success. Obviously there’s no satisfaction there, but you understand it’s not the worst thing to stop and smell the roses and appreciate what you’ve been able to experience, because I think failing to get to the playoffs makes you realize how difficult it really is and maybe it’s something you took for granted.

"But watching more hockey this spring, I think, is something that was really motivating and kind of inspiring and exciting to want to get back to that level again. You dream of playing in the NHL, but at the end of the day, you want to play playoff hockey. That’s what it’s all about."

There were plenty of things that went wrong for the Blackhawks last season and contributed to why they watched the playoffs from home, whether it's the Corey Crawford injury, the down season from Brandon Saad, or the inexperience on the blue line.

For Toews, who turned 30 in April, it's about regaining that old form that made him one of the top players in the NHL and hoping it can filter down the rest of the Blackhawks lineup.

"For me, it’s part of just recapturing that energy, that motivation, excitement and that mindset of a young player who takes nothing for granted, that you had in your younger days," he said. "But also carrying the experience with you and understanding the impact of what you say, what you do, how you carry yourself can impact your teammates, especially the young guys. For me, it comes down to knowing what to say at the right time. But letting my play be the thing that helps me lead by example. No better time than now to use that experience and that excitement trying to rebound off the season we had last year."

If there's any reason to have belief that the Blackhawks can turn it around quickly, look no further than the two teams that collided in the Stanley Cup Final: Vegas and Washington. 

The Golden Knights had the longest odds to win it all at the beginning of the season while the Capitals' championship window was perceived to be closed after they failed to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2017 in the second round yet again with a loaded roster. But it's not about what's on paper.

"Watching that last series, you just knew it came down to who had the most, the deepest belief in themselves," Toews said. "I even had a hard time predicting who was going to win every series. It could’ve gone either way in a lot of situations. It’s not only motivating, seeing how fast that play was and to have missed out on playoff hockey this year and to have the drive to get back there, but knowing if you do sneak into the playoffs it doesn’t matter. You can go a long way.

"For us, thinking, 'OK, we're gonna back and win a Stanley Cup this year,' it sounds like a long shot. But as always, our No. 1 goal is getting back to the playoffs and being ready to hit our stride when we get there."