Blackhawks

Toews a motivator, but shouldn't have to be

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Toews a motivator, but shouldn't have to be

Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011Posted: 7:50 PM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

When the Blackhawks entered the first intermission down 2-0 in St. Louis on Monday, Jonathan Toews did what any good captain should. He made some noise. He barked, he pointed some things out and probably used a few choice words in the process.

Maybe I got after the boys a little too much but we saw how the guys responded to it, Toews said after the Blackhawks rallied to a 5-3 victory. Thats whats frustrating. We say what we have to do before the game and then we play that way the first 20 minutes. That was unacceptable.

Thats great that Toews talk can move the Blackhawks to Mondays outcome. Motivating is his job, or at least the inside-the-locker-room part of it. But at this point of the season, with whats at stake, he shouldnt have to.

The Blackhawks finally found their urgency in the second period on Monday, 20 minutes after they shouldve had it. They fought back. They scored in bunches. They got points from 10 different players. And most importantly, they won. Once again, the get-them-going onus fell on their captain.

The 22-year-old shoulders the weight well. Given his start-to-finish work ethic in games, combined with that C he wears on his sweater, Toews is the perfect candidate to throw a few verbal daggers at his underperforming teammates.

But the Blackhawks should start listening at games start, not 20 or more minutes into it. And they shouldnt have to look to their captain at intermission for vocal inspiration. If they want motivation, all they have to do is look at the standings. They should make a copy of them, tack them to the board prior to every game and circle their position with a big red Sharpie (pen, not Patrick). Eleventh. Entering Tuesday nights games, the defending Stanley Cup champions are 11th in the West.

Now with a couple more victories, the Blackhawks could move from outer edge of the playoffs to right in the middle of the pack again. Yes, welcome to the ridiculous Western Conference. Theres more motivation. So was that come-from-behind victory in St. Louis on Monday. From the second period on it was great hockey. The Blackhawks pushed the pace, got all their lines involved and took advantage of Blues miscues.

Toews said Monday that the leaders in this locker room held the rest of the team accountable. Hopefully that means he wasnt the only guy talking during the first period. There are a few remaining in that room that went to the pinnacle, know what it takes to get there and wants to stoke the fire in others, too.

Theyve got 22 games remaining to conjure up that consistent hockey that was so much a part of them last season and has been so absent this one. Theyve shown at times. Now they have to put it together in a good, solid string. Theyve got it in them.

But from here on out, the Blackhawks shouldnt need Toews to make a mid-game motivational speech off the ice. They should just follow his lead from the start on it.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

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!