Blackhawks

Turning Things Around: 'Anything Little, it's Huge..'

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Turning Things Around: 'Anything Little, it's Huge..'

The Blackhawks were already in the process of taking the proper steps to get out of their losing streak. But as you and I and everyone else watched last Tuesday night, there was one final punch in the gut in Nashville. They had, by and large, played the type of road game needed against the type of opponent they were facing. Six minutes away from earning at least one point against one of the teams in front of them, Ryan Ellis' slap shot from the point got just enough of Duncan Keith's stick to re-direct the puck past Ray Emery.

"I thought Nashville was the kind of game that was a brutal ending. It was almost like, eventually, this has got to go in our favor. We got a great start in New York where maybe rock-bottom was Nashville coming out of it," said Joel Quenneville Sunday afternoon. "We thought the guys tried to view the next game in a positive fashion and brought energy to it, despite the frustration and the emotions of going through that stretch. We were all in the same place."

What happened next was the three-goal outburst in the first four minutes at Madison Square Garden that could potentially be the difference between this team struggling to make the playoffs these final seven weeks, or solidifying its case in, and perhaps climbing up the Western Conference playoff chase.

But as highlight-reel-worthy the three-in-four was, the Hawks have been talking all season about how they need to tighten up at the opposite end of the ice. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes six, seven straight bitter pills before a team seriously rolls up its sleeves and gets to work in true Chicago style.

"The 'details' part of our game has been enhanced through the recent stretch. I always think there's enough offense in our group," Quenneville continued after his team's third win in four days. "It's there, but it's the other end where we can be better, and I see signs that everybody's committed."

Sunday showed it's still a work in progress, they just didn't get burned by it. The Hawks' nine giveaways on the stat sheet surpassed their total from the three previous games combined. That will definitely need to tighten up again when Detroit comes knocking Tuesday night, but there's a greater awareness now.

"I think that tough streak just taught us a lesson that we can't take things for granted."

That's Dave Bolland, who's a plus-4 the last two games after being a minus-7 the previous eight.

"One little mistake, one little break, a turnover," he said, and here's the classic line from The RatGreyhound for its juxtaposition of words regarding the sanctity of puck possession and awareness:

"Anything little, it's huge," Bolland said, without thinking twice. "A team will pounce on that. I think we've been doing a good job of doing the right things and keeping it simple."

Added Quenneville: "Defensively, we've been more aware, better in areas starting in the offensive zone with commitment to our position - not only on the offnsive side of pucks. I thought our defense played very well the last three games, and 'Crow's' been rock-solid in net. You know, playing the score, playing the time in the game, and then staying with it."

How Blackhawks plan to handle Corey Crawford's workload

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USA TODAY

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!