Konroyd's keys for Game 2 of Blackhawks-Ducks


Konroyd's keys for Game 2 of Blackhawks-Ducks

1. Power play must make a difference

The power play for the Blackhawks in Game 1 was not very good. After scoring power play goals in consecutive games to close out the Minnesota Wild (two goals on just three opportunities), this special team unit came up empty on Sunday. The first unit of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Andrew Shaw, Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith were mostly ineffective. The second unit was better, but not by much. It’s not just goals we’re talking about, it’s momentum. The Ducks are the kind of team that likes to play with an edge. That aggressiveness is reined in when you have a power play that is getting shots and chances. It acts like a lion tamer. This wasn’t the case in Game 1, and in order for the Blackhawks to slow down a feisty Anaheim team, the power play has to be effective.

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2. Finish plays

Anaheim head coach Bruce Boudreau stated in his postgame press conference that Chicago had eight good chances before the Ducks got their first. Maybe an overstatement, but not far from the truth. Aside from an early power play that was unproductive, Chicago got the start they wanted. They got pucks deep, got them back, and played with the kind of speed and aggressiveness that you hope for on the road. Unfortunately they came up empty after pouring 16 shots on Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen in the first period. Kane had the best look about five minutes in, and Andersen made the kind of save that happens for goalies maybe once every hundred games. But there were other chances too, and as well as Andersen played, the Hawks have to bear down when they get their looks. Get to the blue paint, pay the price, and make sure you’re finishing the “in close” plays.

3. Force the Ducks defense

Not a great possession numbers day for Anaheim in Game 1. Chicago fired a total of 70 shots towards the Ducks net — 33 hit the net, 22 more were blocked, and 15 were near misses — which is an amazing number in a road playoff game. But what jumped out to me were the number of turnovers (11) by Anaheim’s defense. A lot of these giveaways led to good scoring chances for the Hawks. Continue to force the issue with Anaheim’s D. Put pucks in areas where you can get them back, and put pressure on the back end of Anaheim.

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


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!