Corey Crawford

Four takeaways: Corey Crawford steals the show in hometown of Montreal as Blackhawks win fifth straight

Four takeaways: Corey Crawford steals the show in hometown of Montreal as Blackhawks win fifth straight

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 2-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Saturday:

1. Hometown kid steals the show

Going into Saturday, Corey Crawford had an 8-2-2 record with a 1.67 goals against average, .949 save percentage and one shutout in 12 starts against the Canadiens. He also was 4-0-2 with a 1.32 goals against average and .964 save percentage in his hometown of Montreal.

Somehow, those numbers improved.

On a night where Carey Price was honored for becoming the Canadiens' all-time winningest goaltender (315), it was the hometown kid that stole the show. Crawford stopped all 48 shots he faced — 20 of which were from high-danger areas — for his second shutout of the season, and tied Dave Dryden for the most saves (48) in a shutout performance in Blackhawks history when he did so on Feb. 15, 1969.

It's the fourth consecutive contest Crawford has given up only one goal or fewer — although he left after two periods in Toronto because of an illness. He's stopped 115 of 118 shots for a save percentage of .975 over that span. 

2. Blackhawks silence one of NHL's top lines

The line of Phillip Danault, Brendan Gallagher and Tomas Tatar is one of the most productive in hockey.

When the three of them are on the ice together at 5-on-5 this season, the Canadiens control 62.7 percent of the shot attempts, 62.2 percent of the scoring chances and have a plus-19 goal differential, according to naturalstattrick.com. When they're not on the ice, the Canadiens control 52.3 percent of the shot attempts, 50.8 percent of the scoring chances and have a minus-2 goal differential.

On Saturday, that trio was on the ice for 10:39 of 5-on-5 time and controlled only 42.3 percent of the shot attempts and 36.4 percent of the scoring chances. They largely went up against the Blackhawks' first line of Brandon Saad, Dylan Sikura and Jonathan Toews, who generated 10 scoring chances for and two against. They set the tone.

3. Hot March continues for pair of Blackhawks

After being benched for four straight games, Brendan Perlini has bounced back in an enormous way. He scored a goal for the third straight contest, has eight goals in seven games this month and seven points (five goals, two assists) in his past three games. This wasn't even one of his stronger games, but he found a way to make an impact. And that's what the Blackhawks have been preaching.

Connor Murphy has also had a strong month of March. He scored his second goal in seven games, has a plus-5 rating over that span and has points in three of his last four. His goal against Montreal turned out to be the game winner, which was fitting on a day Chicago celebrated St. Patrick's Day.

4. Dylan Sikura knocking on the door

Sikura played in his 30th career NHL game on Saturday. He's still looking for his first goal. But when coach Jeremy Colliton shows him the tape of this game, he's going to be smiling from ear to ear. And so should Sikura.

The 23-year-old winger easily had his best game in a Blackhawks sweater, recording six shot attempts (four on goal), one takeaway, and was the only player with positive possession metrics for the Blackhawks. He was on the ice for 13 scoring chances for and only five against during 11:33 of 5-on-5 time. Six of those 13 scoring chances came from high-danger areas. He even hit a crossbar. 

If Sikura carries over this performance to Monday and beyond, he's bound to break through sooner than later.

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Four takeaways: Patrick Kane's last-minute goal gives Blackhawks much-needed bounce-back win in Anaheim

Four takeaways: Patrick Kane's last-minute goal gives Blackhawks much-needed bounce-back win in Anaheim

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on Wednesday:

1. Showtime saves the day

The Blackhawks didn't play their best game. They let Anaheim hang around when they had opportunities to put it away earlier. But, as he often has in the past, Patrick Kane delivered in crunch time and secured two points for the visiting team to kick off the three-game West Coast trip on a positive note.

Brandon Saad made a terrific toe-drag move at the blue line, then fed it to Kane, who snapped one past Ryan Miller with 16.1 seconds left in regulation to give the Blackhawks a 4-3 lead.

Kane became the seventh player in Blackhawks history to post multiple 40-goal seasons, joining Bobby Hull (eight times), Steve Larmer (five), Jeremy Roenick (four), Al Secord (three), Denis Savard (three) and Tony Amonte (three), according to the NHL's PR. Kane's career-high is 46 goals, set during the 2015-16 campaign when he won the Hart Trophy, and he's on pace to break that.

2. Return of the Crow

When Corey Crawford returned in October after being sidelined for nearly 10 months with a concussion, it was natural to wonder whether or not he'd be rusty. He quickly dismissed that by turning in a .946 save percentage in his first four starts.

He did the same on Wednesday.

Crawford was sharp all night, stopping 29 of 32 shots for a save percentage of .906, with two of the goals against coming from high-danger areas and his only real blunder coming on Anaheim's third goal of the game when he misplayed the puck and it ended up in the back of his own net. Fortunately for him, the Blackhawks had his back by scoring a late equalizer and finishing the deal in the final minute.

3. Alex DeBrincat making history

DeBrincat has been incredible this season. With two more goals on Wednesday, the 5-foot-7, 165-pound winger has 36 goals on the season and a chance to reach 50 in only his second year in the NHL. He also has 25 goals in his last 33 games, which is a pace of 62 goals over the course of an 82-game season.

DeBrincat became the fourth player in Blackhawks history to have a 35-plus goal season at age 21 or younger, joining Roenick (41 in 1990-91 and 35 in 1991-92), Hull (38 in 1959-60) and Larmer (43 in 1982-83), according to StatsCentre. 

4. Five-minute power play missed opportunity

The Blackhawks had a prime opportunity in the opening minutes of the second period to take control of a scoreless game when they were awarded a five-minute power play after Rickard Rakell was given a game misconduct for boarding Drake Caggiula, who did not return due to a concussion. And it looked like they would.

DeBrincat scored 14 seconds into the power play to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead, but that was all they would get. In fact, the Ducks actually scored a shorthanded goal of their own thanks to an unfortunate bounce that ended up in the back of the net.

In the end, the Blackhawks came out of the five-minute power play the same way they went into it. A tie game. It could've been a killer because if the Blackhawks found a way to make it 2-0 in that sequence, it would've probably feel like a comfortable lead considering the Ducks rank dead last in goals per game (2.16), and had scored only two goals in their previous three games. 

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Blackhawks notebook: Impact of Corey Crawford's return, reaction to idle trade deadline and getting back on track

Blackhawks notebook: Impact of Corey Crawford's return, reaction to idle trade deadline and getting back on track

Corey Crawford has been itching to get back. He's been practicing for two weeks now, and finally took — and cleared — his concussion protocol test that allowed the Blackhawks to activate him from injured reserve.

And he couldn't be more excited to get back to playing hockey after missing the last 28 games.

"It's been another long wait," Crawford said. "It's always tough watching from the sidelines. Try to get back in there, hopefully I feel really good right away and it's just going to be fun to play hockey again."

The Blackhawks kick off a three-game road trip on Wednesday in Anaheim, but it's still unclear when Crawford will make his actual return. Jeremy Colliton only acknowledged that he'll play at some point with the Blackhawks having a back-to-back stint over the weekend in Los Angeles and San Jose.

The Blackhawks are 16-9-3 since Crawford went down on Dec. 16. They're on a pretty good run, and have played themselves into the Western Conference playoff race — although picking up zero out of a possible four points over the weekend was a step back. Crawford is hoping he can provide a boost.

"Hopefully it brings some energy," Crawford said. "But we've been playing so well that I just want to jump in and be a part of that and try and contribute as much as I can. Hopefully I get the feelings — the good feelings — back right away and just roll with it. That'd be nice."

The obvious question now is how much rust he'll have to shake off. But that likely won't be too much of an issue.

After missing more than nine months with a concussion last year, Crawford returned between the pipes in mid-October and it looked like he didn't skip a beat. He had a .946 save percentage in his first four starts, and allowed one goal or fewer in three of those games. He'll be fine.

"He’s going to stop more pucks than the other guy across the rink, that’s the biggest thing," Colliton said. "He does play the puck really well, that is a factor. Very composed back there. The other thing he brings is a calmness. Nothing’s going to bother him, and that filters down to the rest of the team. We’ve been talking about, don’t get too high or low, never give up. He’s got that."

Reaction to an idle trade deadline

The Blackhawks were quiet on NHL trade deadline day. They didn't make any moves, electing to keep the roster intact. Sometimes that can be a positive thing for the locker room because nobody got shipped out. But sometimes it can be a little bit deflating because no pieces were added to a team that still has playoff aspirations.

Colliton was in the war room on Monday, and had some input on what was being discussed, like everyone else. But as the head coach, he's content with the group he has to finish out the season.

"Couldn't find anything," Colliton said on the lack of action. "I was there, they tried. But we have to ... each decision they make has an impact down the road and I think you can't force it and I don't think they did. Everyone has an opportunity to have a say. Ultimately, he's the man. But I think that's what the organization's been built on is collaboration, everyone working together. We're all in it to help the team have success."

Getting back on track

The Blackhawks obviously wanted last weekend to go better. They came up empty against a pair of divisional opponents battling for the same two wildcard spots as them.

But now isn't the time to wave the white flag. Every game is important from here on out, and the Blackhawks know there's a good opportunity to take care of some business on a three-game West Coast trip and turn the ship back into the right direction.

"It is, yeah," Connor Murphy said. "You usually don't want to lose games in a row, if you do, you definitely have to get back on a streak, so that's important. We know that, but we're not going to get stressed about it and just get back to having fun, play our game. When you can go on a road trip like that out west in some nicer weather, it can get guys in a good mood and just focusing on winning and it'll be a good trip."  

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