Blackhawks

By the numbers: Are Blackhawks ahead of last season's Stanley Cup pace?

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By the numbers: Are Blackhawks ahead of last season's Stanley Cup pace?

When the Blackhawks were in the midst of their 12-game winning streak not that long ago – i.e., last week – I was asked one question several times: are these Blackhawks better than the 2014-15 Blackhawks?

Yes, I know they’ve lost three out of their last four games. That’s going to happen. But considering that 12-game winning streak was the Blackhawks’ longest in franchise history, they’re obviously doing something – make that a lot of things – right this season.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Coach Joel Quenneville doesn’t like to compare one season or one team to another. That’s understandable.

Still, that’s not stopping me. Comparing numbers is always fun, isn’t it? So since we’re starting the All-Star break and there sure as hell wasn’t anything to write about for the Blackhawks out of last night’s game, let’s look at the Blackhawks’ first 53 games this season compared to their first 53 (through Feb. 8, 2015) last season:

33-16-4 – Blackhawks’ record through 53 games this season (70 points).

33-18-2 – Blackhawks record through the same number of games last season (68 points).

12 – Longest winning streak this season, a franchise record.

8 – Longest winning streak last season.

28-12-2 – Corey Crawford’s record so far this season; that includes a league-best seven shutouts.

21-12-2 – Corey Crawford’s record to this point last season; that includes one shutout.

179:17 – Blackhawks’ longest road scoring drought this season (from Artem Anisimov’s goal 43 seconds into their game vs. Tampa Bay through Tuesday, which includes shutout losses to Florida and Carolina).

149:25 – Blackhawks’ longest road scoring drought last season (the final 6:35 against Anaheim on Jan. 30, 2015 until 2:50 into the second period against Winnipeg on Feb. 6, 2015. The Blackhawks were shut out twice in between, by San Jose (2-0) and Minnesota (3-0).

73 – Points Patrick Kane has through this season’s first 53 games; that includes a career-high 30 goals.

59 – Points Kane had through his first 53 games last season; that includes 26 goals.

7 – Blackhawks who made their NHL debut this season: Artemi Panarin, Erik Gustafsson, Dennis Rasmussen, Vincent Hinostroza, Tanner Kero, Viktor Svedberg and Mark McNeill.

7 – Blackhawks who made their NHL debut last season: Trevor van Riemsdyk, Kyle Baun, Phillip Danault, Ryan Hartman, Michael Paliotta, Adam Clendening and Klas Dahlbeck. 

10 – Players who were in the Blackhawks’ lineup in Game No. 53 last season who weren’t on Tuesday’s playing roster due to trade, reassignment or injury: David Rundblad, Patrick Sharp, Marcus Kruger, Brandon Saad, Johnny Oduya, Ben Smith, Bryan Bickell, Joakim Nordstrom, Brad Richards and Antti Raanta.*

*You can technically make this 11; Kris Versteeg was injured (broken hand) in early February 2015. 

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!