Blackhawks

Under pressure? Blackhawks aren't feeling any

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Under pressure? Blackhawks aren't feeling any

Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Posted: 10:07 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

The word pressure came up a lot in the Blackhawks locker room following their Game 4 victory over Vancouver on Tuesday night. But not in the way youd probably think. The Blackhawks, you see, may be talking about it, but theyre not feeling it at all.

The defending Cup champions, the No. 8 seed that entered Game 4 down 3-love to the Canucks obviously wasnt feeling the heat as evidence by their 7-2 victory. As Patrick Sharp said, were playing loose, were playing to have fun out there and playing for each other. We're standing up for each other, playing the game the right way.

Basically, they were playing like there was no tomorrow because there nearly wasnt. They were getting scoring from everyone. They were hitting more than they had in previous games, a response to the series intensifying and also to the absence of Brent Seabrook, felled by a Raffi Torres' shoulder-to-head hit in Game 3.

And thats the way the Blackhawks have to play the rest of this series if they want to pull off a rarely-done comeback from their 3-0 deficit. All hands on deck, leave it all on the ice, rinse and repeat.

Its such a hard thing to come back from 3-0 down. We just have to go out and play some hockey and get back to our roots and the way our team can play," Brian Campbell said.

No, the Blackhawks are not the ones with all the pressure on them in this series. They backed into the playoffs thanks to Minnesota. Theyve been inconsistent all year. This year, at least, nobodys going to be stunned if they dont win.

Contrast that with the Canucks, who have the win-a-Cup-for-Canada weight on their shoulders. Theyve been demanded to come through with that a few seasons now, but this year its magnified because they already took that Presidents Cup full-time symbol of the NHLs highest point total, part-time kiss of death. The pressure is immense, and the Canucks were already fielding the uh-oh questions after just one loss.

It was all (about) attitude. That's the game, coach Joel Quenneville said. You're down in a spot you can measure your team. Are they going to go away quietly or compete for one another? They battled for each other. It was a good first step.

First step, yes, and lets reiterate that is all it is right now. The Blackhawks are still down 3-1 and will once again face the hostile crowd at Rogers Arena on Thursday night. As Patrick Kane said, the Canucks are probably the ones laughing right now, and they could still have the last one soon.

The Canucks are still the best in the West, theyre still firmly in control of this series and still have the advantage with that ice and that crowd in Game 5.

The Blackhawks need to play Game 5 the way they played Game 4: free-wheeling, all-out hockey. It won them one game. If they play it again and it wins again, then its a series again.

And then the pressures really on No. 1.

It's just fun to play playoff hockey, Campbell said. It's fun to try to win games on the road and hopefully we can have some luck at that. You get huge rewards if you win a game on the road. That's what we're going after.

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!