Secondary scoring getting the job done for Blackhawks


Secondary scoring getting the job done for Blackhawks

When you’re a star player for a team, the pressure to score is always going to be there. That pressure only intensifies as the postseason goes on: those who get the big bucks are expected to get the big goals.

But those stars are the ones opponents target defensively, and sometimes those opponents succeed in keeping the top players quiet. You need depth; you need the guys not drawing that spotlight and defensive matchup to score. And for the Blackhawks, those guys have come through during the Stanley Cup Final.

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The Tampa Bay Lighting have done a good job against the Blackhawks’ top players, from Jonathan Toews to Patrick Sharp, who each has just one goal each in this series, to Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa, who have none. Several of those goals, instead, have come from the Blackhawks’ bottom-six forwards. Antoine Vermette has scored two game-winning goals in this series. Teuvo Teravainen also has two. Andrew Shaw has another.

Former Detroit/current Toronto head coach Mike Babcock said it several years ago: the top two lines can cancel each other out in the postseason. You need secondary scoring. The Blackhawks, thus far, have gotten it.

“It shows how much good depth we have here,” Hossa said. “You never know who is going to come through but you always have confidence right through the lineup.”

The Blackhawks’ third line, which has featured Vermette and Teravainen for some time now has been the most productive this series. Kris Versteeg joined those two for Game 5 and kept their impact high. Versteeg said the group doesn’t focus on providing offense but knows, in a tight defensive series, every bit helps.

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“We don’t really talk about that, but we talk about trying to be a solid line for the guys,” Versteeg said. “We’ve got so many players here who can play and put points on the board, but we wanted to be a line that could help and contribute, and fortunately tonight was one of those nights.”

Coach Joel Quenneville often says he doesn’t care who scores the goals. But depth is critical at this time of the postseason and, if your top stars are shut down, you need those goals from someone else. The Blackhawks have gotten them.

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!