Blackhawks

Steve Konroyd’s keys to a Blackhawks win in Game 6

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Steve Konroyd’s keys to a Blackhawks win in Game 6

1) It’s just another game... No it isn’t. This is for the right to parade Lord Stanley’s Cup around the United Center ice in front of 22,000 plus screaming fans. But the players have to treat it like it’s just another important playoff game. Keep up the same routine, the same sleep patterns, the same habits that you would have on any other game day. It certainly isn’t a given that the Blackhawks will be celebrating their third Stanley Cup in the last six years later tonight, so heed the advice head coach Joel Quenneville offers at times like these and “be excited about the opportunity that is laying right in front of you”. Listen to what he says - he’s 15-4 in series-clinching games.

[MORE: Young Blackhawks keeping their calm before Game 6 vs. Lightning]

2) Redemption, the sweetest drink. A lot of players making the most of these Stanley Cup Final games were healthy scratches during long stretches of this post season. Kris Versteeg has only played in half of the 22 playoff games, but he’s been a huge factor in Games 1 and 5 of this series. Antoine Vermette, who didn’t play the first two games of these playoffs, and missed another in the Western Conference Final, has scored two of the three game-winning goals in this series and has been a beast in the face-off circle. And let’s not forget about Corey Crawford, the goalie who was the designated backup for four straight games early in the postseason, only to have Coach Q state that more than a few of his teams victories have been “goalie” wins. Who knows who the next unsung hero may be.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

3) Use the crowd. Right now the Hawks have home ice advantage. Make sure you are using your crowd and all that energy to come out with a barrage of shots and bodies. You can’t win a game in the first period, but you can certainly set the tone. The 22,000 faithful at the United Center are the best in the league. I’ve seen this crowd pick up a player (Crawford after being reinserted in Game 6 against Nashville) with their supportive cheers when he came off the bench. They know the game and how this team feeds off of their support. Have a great start, get the crowd into it, and ride that wave of emotion and energy. By the way, both teams are 11-1 when they score first.

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!