Monday, January 6, 2014
Stock Watch: Crawford finding groove
By Scott Powers
Corey Crawford, goaltender: Crawford has been sharp since he’s returned from his injury. He played well in his first game back and had 31 saves on 34 shots in a 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Islanders. He had arguably one of his best starts of the season in a 3-2 shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks on Sunday. He made a season-high 40 saves on 42 shots for a .952 save percentage.
Patrick Sharp, forward: With Patrick Kane slowing down the past week, Sharp has been the Blackhawks’ hottest player. Sharp had two hat tricks in the span of five games and has nine goals and two assists over the last six games. He’ll find out on Tuesday whether he makes Team Canada for the Olympics. He’s certainly presented his case this season.
Penalty kill: The Blackhawks continue to make strides in their penalty kill. They killed off another penalty against the Sharks on Sunday and have allowed just three power-play goals in 30 attempts over the last 10 games. The Blackhawks have raised their penalty-killing percentage to 76.9. They were at 73.1 percent 10 games ago.
Bryan Bickell, forward: No one expected Bickell to excel right away after returning from his knee injury, but he’s now been back for nine games and he hasn’t been playing to Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville’s standards. Bickell has one goal, one assist and a minus-four rating over those nine games. Quenneville sent Bickell a message Sunday by playing him just nine shifts and a season-low 5:20 of ice time.
Shootouts: Every point may be important to the Blackhawks when it comes to the division title this season. Right now, they’re leaving behind points by losing in shootouts. The Blackhawks are 4-6 in shootouts this season and have lost their last four. Kane has struggled in them this season, but he wasn’t to blame for Sunday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks. Jonathan Toews and Sharp failed to convert in the first two rounds, and Crawford allowed the Sharks to score twice.
Michal Handzus, forward: Handzus hasn’t been giving the Blackhawks much offensively lately. He has zero points over the last five games and has a below-50 Corsi percentage in four of those games. He also had a minus-two rating during the same period. He and Marcus Kruger have been solid on the penalty kill, but the Blackhawks need more from him offensively, especially with him playing between Kane and Brandon Saad on the second line.