Cam Ward

Blackhawks 2018-19 season grades: Goaltenders

Blackhawks 2018-19 season grades: Goaltenders

At the Blackhawks' exit interviews, GM Stan Bowman and coach Jeremy Colliton basically addressed everything. What went wrong? What needs to improve? Which areas did they take strides in?

The one thing they didn't assess: Goaltending. And it's because they didn't need to.

Among the 70 goaltenders that appeared in at least 10 games this season, Cam Ward (32.1 feet), Collin Delia (33.2) and Corey Crawford (34.1) ranked No. 1, 2 and 4 in closest average shot distance faced at 5-on-5, according to naturalstattrick.com. And yet the three of them helped the Blackhawks rank fifth in 5-on-5 high-danger save percentage (.856) and 18th in overall 5-on-5 save percentage (.919). 

No complaints there.

Where the numbers got skewed is on the penalty kill, where the Blackhawks were 26th in save percentage (.843). But again, how much of that is the fault of the goaltenders vs. the actual system and personnel?

So while the numbers on the surface might not look great in a vacuum — Crawford: 2.93 GAA and .908 save percentage; Delia: 3.61 GAA and .908 save percentage; Ward: 3.67 GAA and .897 save percentage — the Blackhawks couldn't have really asked for much more from their trio of netminders.

The most encouraging news? Crawford bounced back from his first and second concussion in a big way and looked like his old self down the stretch. In his final 13 starts he went 6-3-3 with a 1.97 GAA, .933 save percentage and one shutout. 

"It was great to see him rebound the way he did, especially at the start of the year," Bowman said. "And then having an injury, missed some time and then he came back, he's a pretty unique guy to be able to miss time like that and it's like he never missed a beat. He's the sharpest he's ever been. So that's reassuring knowing he has a lot of game left." 

Grade: B

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Four takeaways: Sellout streak continues as Blackhawks rout Stars in home finale

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USA TODAY

Four takeaways: Sellout streak continues as Blackhawks rout Stars in home finale

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-1 win over the Dallas Stars at the United Center on Friday:

1. Finishing strong at home

The Blackhawks may not be in playoff contention anymore, but they haven't exactly packed it in down the stretch. With a victory on Friday night, the Blackhawks extended their point streak to five games (3-0-2).

They also finished the season with a 19-14-8 record at home after going 18-18-5 last season. They went 4-1-2 in the final seven games at the United Center.

"Full barn again," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Lots of energy. Nice to see us put some pucks in the net and everyone can feel good about themselves. Obviously, we can carry a good feeling into tomorrow."

Said Kane: "We gotta be good at home and I think that's something that probably hasn't been as good as it should have been the past couple seasons. But still a treat to play here at the United Center and we always feel the fans at our backs, so try to use that to our advantage next season."

2. Corey Crawford injury scare

With two games left, the Blackhawks were expected to give Crawford the start on Friday in front of his hometown fans one last time this season and Cam Ward on Saturday in Nashville for his 700th career NHL game. But the circumstances changed.

While he did start, Crawford left the game in the second period because of a groin injury he appeared to suffer in the opening frame trying to make a save going post-to-post. 

Ward eventually replaced Crawford, who did not return and will not travel to Nashville for the regular season finale. But they don't anticipate his injury being serious. The Blackhawks will call up goaltender Kevin Lankinen from the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

3. Personal achievements

It was a well-rounded victory for the Blackhawks, and one that featured several nice milestones. 

Let's run them down:

— With an assist, Erik Gustafsson became the sixth defenseman this season to reach the 60-point mark, joining Brent Burns (81), Mark Giordano (74), Morgan Rielly (72), John Carlson (70) and Keith Yandle (61).
— Patrick Kane became the first winger in Blackhawks history to hit at least 108 points in a single season. Denis Savard did it four times as a center.
— Slater Koekkoek scored his first goal as a member of the Blackhawks.
— Chris Kunitz, who received a courtesy start in front of his family in Chicago, scored a goal in what could be one of his final games in the NHL. He's the only active player with four Stanley Cups.
— Ward became the fifth active goaltender to enter the 700-game club, joining Ryan Miller (757), Marc-Andre Fleury (797), Henrik Lundqvist (857) and Roberto Luongo (1,043).

4. The sellout streak continues

Blackhawks fans have been spoiled. In nine straight years from 2009-17, their team made the playoffs each time, appeared in five Conference Finals and three Stanley Cups. But they want more, and they should want more because of where they were before the Kane and Toews era. Nobody wants to go back to those times.

And despite missing out on the postseason for the second consecutive year, that hasn't stopped fans from packing the building on a nightly basis.

For the 11th straight season, the Blackhawks have led the NHL in attendance. Friday marked their 497th consecutive sellout, including playoffs. It's hard to see that ending any time soon.

A cool gesture by the organization to give back to the fans, the Blackhawks gave their season ticket holders an opportunity to upload a personal photo, which were then put together to create collages that filled the numbers of the players' warmup jerseys for the final home game. The jerseys will be signed and then auctioned for charity, with all proceeds benefiting the Chicago Blackhawks Foundation.

"Tonight was great," Kane said. "Well all year round it's been great, but tonight was great too. Just kind of the wherewithal to have the presence of mind to be whistling at the end and kind of showing thanks for the season even though we obviously didn't have the season we wanted. What was it close to 22,000 fans again tonight? Not really surprised anymore, but something we don't take for granted in here and love playing in front of them."

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Blackhawks recall Collin Delia after Cam Ward suffers knee injury

Blackhawks recall Collin Delia after Cam Ward suffers knee injury

The Blackhawks announced Tuesday that they recalled goaltender Collin Delia from the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League on an emergency basis, and it was a hold-your-breath kind of moment because no immediate information was provided as to why and a corresponding move had not been made.

The team later revealed that Cam Ward "will be out of all hockey activity for approximately 7-10 days" due to a right knee injury. It's unclear when or how exactly it happened, but there was a moment in the second period of Sunday's game against San Jose where Ward appeared to be in some discomfort.

At the 5:57 mark, Ward made an initial stop on Michael Haley from 13 feet out, then tried to quickly regather himself but his right knee buckled as he attempted to make the save on a rebound. He was a little slow to get up, and was then seen shaking his right knee before the ensuing faceoff.

Ward ultimately finished the game, stopping 29 of 33 shots in the loss. The Blackhawks don't play again until Thursday when they host the Buffalo Sabres. 

Delia was reassigned to Rockford on Feb. 25 after Crawford was activated from injured reserve. He was 6-4-3 with a 3.48 goals against average and .909 save percentage in 15 appearances during his first stint with the Blackhawks.

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