Chicago Blackhawks: Corey Crawford

Blackhawks at the midway point

January, 9, 2015
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BlackhawksCal Sport Media/AP ImagesPatrick Kane has been on a tear since mid-November with 34 points in his last 24 games.
The Chicago Blackhawks have to like where they are halfway through the season. There’s certainly been more good than bad at this point. Here’s a look at what’s going right for the Blackhawks and what they’d still like to improve on before entering the playoffs:

Looking back on the first half

1. The Blackhawks have put themselves in position to make a run at the Central Division title and even the Presidents’ Trophy with a 27-12-2 record through 41 games. They’re tied for third in the NHL with 56 points and are second in the Central behind the Nashville Predators, who have 58 points in 40 games. The Blackhawks have been solid in the Central so far with an 11-5-0 record after going just 13-13-3 in the division last season. They have 13 division games remaining. The division will likely come down to the Blackhawks, Predators and St. Louis Blues. The Blackhawks face the Blues three more times, including twice in the final week of the regular season. The Blackhawks have no remaining games against the Predators.

2. Patrick Kane has been on a tear since mid-November. After having just 11 points through 17 games, he has 34 points over the last 24 games. He’s tied for third in the league with 45 points and is seventh with 20 goals. It’s no coincidence his game took off after joining Brad Richards and Kris Versteeg on a line Nov. 16. Having a consistent and offensive second-line center has done wonders for Kane. He and Richards have created a bond on and off the ice. Kane is on pace to break his career-highs of 30 goals and 88 points, which both came in the 2009-2010 season. He had 53 points midway through the 2013-14 season, but his play slowed down and he also had a late-season injury.

[+] EnlargeCrawford
Bill Smith/Getty ImagesCorey Crawford looks like he's healthy and near the top of his game.
3. Corey Crawford is near the top of his game. His numbers were better during the 2012-13 season, but he shared games with Ray Emery for much of that. When he’s been healthy, he’s been getting the net nearly every game this season. He’s 16-8-2 with a 2.19 goals-against average and .921 save percentage. He’s fifth in goals-against average and ninth in save percentage (minimum 15 games). He had a 2.47 goals-against average and .907 save percentage halfway through last season. It also appears as if he’s shaking off the rust from his latest injury. He’s had 64 saves on 68 shots over the last two games.

4. The Blackhawks have gotten back to being the league’s top defensive team. They struggled to keep the puck out of their net last season. They were 15th in the league with a 2.68 goals-against average midway through last season and finished 12th with a 2.58 average. They lead the league now with a 2.15 goals-against average. A lot of that is due to the play of Crawford, Antti Raanta and Scott Darling. The trio has 1,115 saves on 1,200 shots for a .929 save percentage. Possession has also helped the Blackhawks. They’re third in league with a 54.4 Corsi percentage in 5-on-5 situations. Their penalty kill has also been keeping goals out. They lead the league with a 89.7 penalty-kill percentage. They had a 76.0 percentage after 41 games last season.

5. The Blackhawks are among the league’s deepest teams again. The Blackhawks and Blues are the only teams in the league with nine players with 20-plus points. Brandon Saad is on pace to set a career-high in points. Brent Seabrook has already matched his goal total from last season and needs three more goals to set a career high. Patrick Sharp has found his groove after an early-season injury. Kris Versteeg has dealt with a couple of injuries, but he’s been back to form when healthy. Jonathan Toews has been his usual self. Altogether, the Blackhawks are sixth in the league with a 3.00 goals-for average. That could still go up a bit considering they’re 5-on-5 shooting percentage is still lower than usual.

Looking ahead to the second half

1. The Blackhawks haven’t looked like their usual selves over the last few weeks. They’re still finding ways to pick up points, but they’ll want to avoid what happened in the second half last season. The Blackhawks actually had more points through 41 games last season. They were 27-7-7 with 61 points midway through last season and then broke down throughout the second half. They went 19-14-8 over the final 41 games. Their play picked up in the playoffs, but that’s not something you want rely on happening every year.

[+] EnlargeJoel Quenneville
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesJoel Quenneville still has some decisions to make on his fourth line.
2. Injuries have forced Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville to toy with his lineup again, but he’ll want to figure out in the coming months what works best and who can be depended on in the playoffs, especially on that fourth line. The Blackhawks had a consistent fourth line of Brandon Bollig, Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith throughout the regular season last season. The line was solid and dependable. But when the playoffs came, Quenneville began tinkering with his lineup because Michal Handzus wasn’t getting it done on the second line. The fourth line was included in those changes, and he basically lost all faith in the players on the fourth line. The Blackhawks became a three-line team, and their play declined due to it. One of Quenneville’s biggest questions will have to be whether he trusts Daniel Carcillo in tight games. Carcillo’s play has varied this season. He was back in the lineup Thursday. It could be between him and Joakim Nordstrom to be a fourth-line winger in the playoffs.

3. The Blackhawks are finally starting to get some consistent play out of their third defenseman pairing. David Rundblad has been better and has noticeably been more confident with the puck. Michal Rozsival will still have the occasional turnover, but he’s held his own considering it’s been a few seasons since he’s been an everyday player. Going forward, the Blackhawks should get Trevor van Riemsdyk back into the lineup in a few months. Seabrook, Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson have been good most of the season. The Blackhawks would like Johnny Oduya to be more consistent leading into the playoffs. Whether Quenneville will trust Rozsival, van Riemsdyk or Rundblad in the playoffs is yet to be seen. Quenneville’s patience for defensemen diminishes in the playoffs. Nick Leddyk knows all about that.

4. The Blackhawks would love to get Marian Hossa and some of their depth players contributing more. Hossa’s scoring and shooting percentage numbers are down. Bryan Bickell has shown some life lately with four goals over the last five games, but he still has 16 points in 41 games. Andrew Shaw has three points since Dec. 1. Smith and Kruger had better numbers last season.

5. The Blackhawks’ power play has been up and down. It’s been better lately, but they’re still 15th in the league with a 19.0 percentage. It was actually better last season as they finished tied for ninth in the league with a 19.5 percentage. The Blackhawks did a nice job of getting the puck to the net and creating off that for a power-play goal on Thursday. Kane has a team-high 18 power-play points. He and Sharp each have six power-play goals.
Here are three thoughts on the Chicago Blackhawks after their 2-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday:

1. Was surprised to see the first reader comment on last night’s story was how Corey Crawford was being let off for his role in the Blackhawks allowing two goals in the first 1:17 of the game. Just wrote about this the other day. Crawford hasn’t been at the same level since returning from injury. His numbers have dropped. He’s not reacting as quickly and his rebound control has been a bit off. It is easy to blame the goaltender, and some people seem to like to do that more often than not with Crawford.

Again, Crawford hasn’t been phenomenal in recent weeks, but Tuesday’s loss wasn’t on him. There were two defensive breakdowns on consecutive shifts, and that’s what led to the goals. Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson didn’t play either situation that well and there wasn’t much forward help on both plays, and it cost them. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville’s frustration with how those two plays unfolded was very noticeable in the postgame press conference. He was especially in disbelief over the second one. Nathan MacKinnon did score off a nice shot from the right circle on the first one. There wasn’t much room there. Overall, Crawford played pretty well on the night. He saved another Oduya-Hjalmarsson breakdown later on and didn’t allow another goal.

2. The Blackhawks felt they didn’t get enough great chances on Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov, but there was enough quality in those 54 shots to score a goal or two on your average night. The Blackhawks did a better job of crashing the net, creating second chances and making Varlamov really work as the game went on, especially in the third period. Varlamov deserves the credit, though. Sometimes a goalie does that, and a team has to shake its head and move on. Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, Varlamov had done that a lot to them in the last two seasons. He has 222 saves on 229 shots for a .969 save percentage against the Blackhawks the last two years.

3. Teuvo Teravainen looked more comfortable in his second game. He played again with a lot of different players and saw some ice time in a top-6 role. His vision is something a lot of players just don’t have. For one, he finds people who have some time and space around them. He had one nice pass coming from the behind the net to Michal Rozsival in the right circle. He’s also good at identifying teammates as they’re making a move to the net without the puck and getting them the puck in those situations. He nearly connected with Patrick Kane for one of those Tuesday. Teravainen was fourth among the forwards with a plus-13 and has been a plus-18 over the two games. He’s been defensively responsible, and Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville seems to trust him as he’s given Teravainen 10-plus minutes in both games. As he spends more time in the NHL and gets to know his teammates better, he’ll start to produce.

Crawford working to return to pre-injury level

January, 5, 2015
Jan 5
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Corey CrawfordCal Sport Media via AP ImagesBlackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford is still trying to find his groove since returning from injury.


CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford was at the top of his game through the first two months of the season.

He was seeing pucks, reacting and stopping them as well he had ever done in the regular season. He was among the league’s leaders with an 1.87 goals-against average and .929 save percentage through 18 games.

Crawford then injured himself leaving a concert on Dec. 1 and missed nearly three weeks of games. Since returning on Dec. 20, his numbers haven’t returned to where they left off. He’s allowed 18 goals and had a .892 save percentage in six games since returning from the injury.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Monday he doesn’t have an issue with Crawford’s play, but had noticed the difference.

“I see the same guy,” Quenneville said after practice. “I don’t think he’s played as well as he was going into the injury. He was as good as he’s ever been game-in, game-out. He was outstanding. I think he’s trying to get back to that consistent play. That’s a work in progress and that’s a pretty fair assessment.”

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Hawks honored to be voted into All-Star Game

January, 4, 2015
Jan 4
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews recently glanced at the number of votes he and his teammates were receiving for the All-Star Game.

Toews had been voted for about a million times when he looked at it. When he discovered Sunday he ended up with more than 1.2 million, he was even more impressed.

“That’s a lot of votes, I guess, eh?” Toews said.

The Blackhawks said Sunday they were honored and humbled to have five of their players -- Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford -- voted into the All-Star Game. The Blackhawks filled five of the six spots in the balloting. Buffalo Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons was the lone non-Blackhawk to be voted into the game. The final tally was announced on Saturday night.

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Year in review: Best and worst of 2014

December, 30, 2014
12/30/14
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Patrick Kane, Jonathan ToewsAP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastThe Hawks made sure their future will remain bright by re-signing Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
The Chicago Blackhawks were going to have a difficult time matching 2013 no matter what they accomplished in 2014. The Blackhawks did come close to defending the Stanley Cup in 2014, but fell short of their goal. Recapturing the Cup is where the bar is set now, and anything less is a disappointment for the franchise and its fan base. The Blackhawks can be hopeful their success in the last few months of 2014 leads to another celebratory year in 2015.

BEST MOMENTS


5. Making their countries, Hawks proud: The Blackhawks were well-represented in the 2014 Winter Olympics. Ten Blackhawks were picked to play in Sochi: Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp helped Canada won gold again, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marcus Kruger and Johnny Oduya won silver medals with Sweden, and Michal Handzus (Slovakia), Marian Hossa (Slovakia), Michal Rozsival (Czech Republic) and Patrick Kane (U.S.) also participated in the Olympics.

[+] EnlargePatrick Kane
AP Photo/Chris CarlsonPatrick Kane added to his playoff legacy with a tie-breaking goal in Game 6 of the Western finals.
4. Outdoor fun: The Blackhawks hosted their second outdoor game, and this one went better than their loss to the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field. Despite having to play through wind and snow, the Blackhawks skated around the Pittsburgh Penguins for a 5-1 victory at Soldier Field on March 1. Jonathan Toews stole the show with two goals and an assist. Kris Versteeg became the first player to score at Wrigley Field and Solider Field.

3. Kane delivers again: Patrick Kane has had his share of special playoff goals. He added to them in 2014. One of his biggest of the year came in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals against the Los Angeles Kings when he broke a 3-3 tie with a goal with 3:45 remaining in the third period. The Blackhawks won 4-3 and forced a Game 7. Altogether, he had four game-winning goals and 20 points in the playoffs last season.

2. Survive and advance: The Blackhawks were on the ropes after losing the first two games of the opening round of the playoffs to the St. Louis Blues. The Blackhawks needed someone to step up in Game 3, and Corey Crawford answered the call. Crawford denied all 34 shots he faced and the Blackhawks pulled out a 2-0 win. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock thought Game 3 was his team’s best game. Kane scored an overtime game-winner in Game 4. Toews scored an overtime game-winner in Game 5. The Blackhawks went on to win the series 4-2. The Blackhawks also took the Western Conference semifinals 4-2 over the Minnesota Wild.

1. Re-signing Kane and Toews: The Blackhawks may not have won the Stanley Cup in 2014, but they increased their chances of winning future Cups by re-signing Kane and Toews to identical eight-year, $84-million contracts. The contracts were Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman’s priority the last few years, and the deal was completed on July 9. Their extensions go into effect next season and they will be signed through the 2022-23 season.

WORST MOMENTS


5. Wakey, wakey: Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook was suspended three games after his elbow connected with Blues forward David Backes' head in Game 2 of their first-round series. Backes appeared dazed and was slow to get up after the hit, and a microphone caught someone say “Wakey, wakey” to him. None of the Blackhawks admitted to it. Backes missed two games with an upper-body injury.

[+] EnlargeJonathan Toews
Jerry Lai/USA TODAY SportsThe Blackhawks' Stanley Cup defense came to an end against the Kings thanks to Alec Martinez's game-winner in Game 7.
4. Second-half slump: The Blackhawks weren’t exactly cruising into the playoffs last season. They went 18-14-8 from Jan. 1 to the end of the regular season. They had three losing streaks of three games or more and just one winning streak of more than two games during that span. They finished in third place in the Central Division and had to start the playoffs on the road.

3. Quenneville fined: Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was fined $25,000 for inappropriate conduct when he grabbed his groin area and yelled at the officials during Game 1 against the Blues. Quenneville apologized and described it as a stupid move. Fans had fun with the GIF of his action for some time.

2. Kane and Toews’ injuries: The Blackhawks finished the regular season without their top two players due to injuries last season. Kane missed the final 12 regular-season games after suffering a lower-body injury against the Blues on March 19. Toews endured an upper-body injury when he was hit into the boards against the Penguins on March 30. He sat out the final six regular-season games. The Blackhawks were also highly criticized for not retaliating against Brooks Orpik and the Penguins for the hit on Toews. The Blackhawks had been without Kane and Toews at the same time in just one game prior to last season.

1. Kings eliminate Blackhawks: The Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup defense and chance at back-to-back championships ended when the Los Angeles Kings' Alec Martinez scored a game-winning overtime goal in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals. The Blackhawks had won six consecutive playoff series before falling to the Kings, who went on to win the Stanley Cup.

Blackhawks reassign Scott Darling to AHL

December, 17, 2014
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The Chicago Blackhawks reassigned goaltender Scott Darling to the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL on Tuesday.

The Blackhawks were expected to reassign either Darling or Antti Raanta because Corey Crawford is set to return from a lower-body injury this upcoming weekend. Darling and Raanta both played well and helped the Blackhawks to a 7-1-0 record since Crawford injured himself leaving a concert on Dec. 1.

Darling went 3-1-0 and stopped 124-of-132 shots for a .939 save percentage since being recalled on Dec. 2. He is 5-2-0 with a 1.97 goals-against average and .937 save percentage for the Blackhawks this season. He is 8-2-1 with a 2.05 goals-against average and .929 save percentage for the IceHogs this season.

Raanta started the last two games for the Blackhawks. He made 26 saves on 29 shots in a 5-3 win over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Tuesday he expects Crawford to start against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday or the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday. Crawford is 12-5-1 with a 1.87 goals-against average and .929 save percentage this season.

Stress-free Raanta steps up for Blackhawks

December, 14, 2014
12/14/14
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CHICAGO -- Antti Raanta arrived to the United Center with a fresh mind on Sunday.

Raanta had been allowing himself to get caught up in the Chicago Blackhawks' goaltending situation. Scott Darling had started in net the previous four games prior to Sunday, and Raanta naturally began to worry what it would mean for him when Corey Crawford returns from his injury in the near future. The Blackhawks will eventually send either Darling or Raanta down to the AHL.

[+] EnlargeRaanta
Bill Smith/Getty ImagesAntti Raanta made 23 saves Sunday night, including all five of the Flames' power-play shots.
Raanta pushed all those thoughts aside Sunday before starting his first game since Dec. 5. Focused on the task at hand and feeling loose, Raanta went out and made 23 saves and helped the Blackhawks to a 2-1 win over the Calgary Flames.

"I was feeling really good," Raanta said. "I was relaxed. I don't want to take that kind of pressure if I lose the game or if I let in two goals or three goals, that’s it, game over. I just tried to come to the rink, I was like, 'We're going to play. I'm going to do my best. And we'll see after the game what's the results.'"

The results fell in Raanta's favor against the Flames. With the Blackhawks coming off the second game of a back-to-back, they weren't exactly flying early against the Flames, and Raanta protected the net. He stopped all nine shots he saw in the first period, nine of 10 in the second period and all five in the third period. He denied all five of the Flames' power-play shots.

Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg was impressed by Raanta.

"He hadn't played since [Dec. 5]," Versteeg said. "This is a heck of a challenge for him tonight on a back-to-back. He kept us in there in the start."

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville also praised Raanta.

"I thought he was very good," Quenneville said. "He did a very good job, excellent."

With the win, the Blackhawks improved to 6-1-0 since Crawford injured himself at a concert on Dec. 1. Raanta is 3-0-0 and has 101 saves on 106 shots for a .953 save percentage during that stretch, and Darling is 3-1-0 and has 124 saves on 132 shots for a .939 save percentage.

Quenneville hasn't tipped his hand regarding which goaltender he prefers yet, but he said Sunday he's liked how both have responded to the competition.

"I think it's healthy," Quenneville said. "I think competition is not a bad thing. Organizationally, you got to commend all of our goaltenders pushing each other in the right way. They want to play. They take advantage of the opportunity when they get in there. They've done exactly what you hope for them to do."

Raanta has especially been mindful of making the competition friendly and still being a good teammate even if that's not how he's always feeling.

"Of course, this is all the time like fighting for those games, but I think me and Scotty are pretty much the same kind of guys that we just try to do our best and that's it," Raanta said. "If you start thinking too much, then it's like if Scotty plays a great game and he gets the win, then that's it. You still have to be like a good teammate. You can't start doing anything stupid because you only hurt yourself.

"Just come here every morning, even though sometimes you can feel a little frustrated and be pretty sad about the situation, it's just hockey. Just come here with a smile on your face and enjoy the moment."

That plan worked out just fine Sunday.

Corey Crawford expected back next week

December, 14, 2014
12/14/14
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford is expected to return to game action next weekend after being out with a lower-body injury, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Sunday.

Crawford suffered the injury while leaving a concert on Dec. 1. He hasn't played in a game since Nov. 29. He began practicing again last week. He could play against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday or the Toronto Maple Leafs on Dec. 21.

"I would expect him to be ready next weekend," Quenneville said Sunday. "Probably wants to play Tuesday, but we'll see how that all plays out in the next couple of games."

Antti Raanta and Scott Darling have shared the net in Crawford’s absence. Darling started four consecutive games prior to Sunday's game against the Calgary Flames. Raanta will start against the Flames. The Blackhawks are 5-1-0 without Crawford.

Quenneville said he's liked how Darling and Raanta have played.

"[Darling's] made big strides every time he's been in the net," Quenneville said. "He's been good for us. He's been big, solid, really consistent. He's done a tremendous job for us.

"Antti's done well himself, so it's a good situation to have, a healthy decision to make. No matter who's been in our goaltending's been outstanding. We're just looking for continued consistency, and that's what we've been getting."

Darling or Raanta are expected to be reassigned to the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL when Crawford is ready to play.

By the numbers: The circus trip

November, 30, 2014
11/30/14
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Los Angeles Kings loseJuan Ocampo/Getty ImagesThe Blackhawks capped a 5-1 road trip with a victory over the Kings Saturday.


Here’s a look by the numbers at the Chicago Blackhawks' six-game circus road trip:

• The Blackhawks went 5-1-0 on the trip. They have gone 11-2-0 in the last two years on the circus trip and 27-12-4 since 2007.

Corey Crawford started every game on the trip. He stopped 143 of 154 shots for a .929 save percentage. He allowed two-or-less goals in four of the six games.

Patrick Kane had four goals and nine points on the trip. It matched his point total during last year’s circus trip when he had nine points in seven games. He has four multi-point games this season. He leads the team and is tied for 14th in the NHL with 23 points.

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Hawks thoughts: Kruger, Smith priceless as role players

November, 29, 2014
11/29/14
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Here are five thoughts on the Chicago Blackhawks leading up to their game against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday:

• 1. Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith have been the ultimate role players. Both take faceoffs and have been effective at the dot. Kruger has won 111-of-194 faceoffs for a 57.2 percentage this season and Smith is 84-of-162 for a 51.8 percentage. They both start in the defensive zone nearly as much as anyone in the NHL and still rarely allow goals. They’re tied for seventh in the league with a 46.2 defensive zone faceoff starting percentage, and both are among the top 35 players in the NHL in the lowest goals-against average per 60 minutes. Smith is tied for 10th at 0.93 goals against per 60 minutes and Kruger is tied for 32nd at 1.23 goals against. Finally, they’re two of the primary reasons why the Blackhawks have the league’s top penalty kill. Smith is first among the team’s forwards with 59:48 of short-handed ice time and Kruger is second at 54:49. The two of them together may only have eight points on the season, but their contributions obviously go well beyond that.

• 2. Plenty of people were skeptical when the Blackhawks signed Daniel Carcillo to a one-year deal just before the season began. It was understandable as Carcillo’s first stint with the Blackhawks was unmemorable. This time around has been different so far. Carcillo has had a positive Corsi percentage in eight of 13 games, including the last five, is a plus-29 Corsi for the season, has been on the ice for more goals for than goals against (4-2) and has been drawing more penalties than taking them (6-2). Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville also isn’t pushing him too much. Carcillo is averaging around nine minutes a game since returning from his lower-body injury. If Carcillo can keep up this up, the Blackhawks have another solid role player.

• 3. Patrick Kane can put the final touches on his best circus trip against the Kings on Saturday. He haa four goals and nine points in the first five games of the trip. His best circus trip came last season when he had five goals and nine points in seven games. Since his rookie season, he’s accumulated 42 points in 42 circus trip games. He’s had six or more points in five of the seven trips.

• 4. Marian Hossa's slump isn’t funny, but it was sort of comical the way he just flipped his stick after having another wonderful chance somehow denied against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday. He just couldn’t believe it. His 40 shots on goal rank him 29th in the league in November, so the opportunities are there. These types of numbers often even out. It is probably just a matter of time before his three goals and his 4.1 shooting percentage on the season turn into the numbers he’s used to producing.

• 5. Didn’t expect Corey Crawford to start all six games of the trip, but that appears to be the case. He will start his 14th consecutive game Saturday. He’s 8-5-0 and has a 2.00 goals-against average and .928 save percentage in his last 13 starts. For those wondering, Crawford once started 27 consecutive games to end the 2010-11 season. The Blackhawks went 16-7-4 during the streak.

Blackhawks not looking past Ducks

November, 28, 2014
11/28/14
2:29
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Arritt By Dan Arritt
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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- With so much focus and energy placed on getting through the current six-game circus road trip with positive results and healthy bodies, Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville hasn’t had time to look ahead at what’s lurking once the team returns home next week.

Certainly not with a huge test awaiting the Blackhawks on Friday against the Anaheim Ducks, followed by Saturday night's contest against the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.

“I think you just look at today’s opponent, knowing it was a tough loss last time, always a close game, always competitive games with Anaheim, and that’s our mindset,” Quenneville said outside Chicago’s locker room prior to its meeting with the Ducks.

After completing this season's second-longest road trip Saturday against the Kings, the Blackhawks will fly home and begin preparing for Wednesday’s clash against the St. Louis Blues, who began the day in second place in the Central Division, three points ahead of Chicago. Like the Blackhawks, the Blues will have three days off between games.

Two days later, Chicago is scheduled to host the Montreal Canadiens, who began Friday tied with the Ducks for the most points in the NHL (33). Then the Blackhawks head back out on the road for four games, the first against the Nashville Predators, who currently lead the Central Division by five points over the third-place Blackhawks.

Quenneville is aware of the stacked schedule that awaits his team, but any notes on future opponents are still tucked deep in his briefcase.

“Our next five games are all tough teams, top teams as well," Quenneville said, "but we don’t have time to look ahead.”

And that includes pinpointing the return of Patrick Sharp, the team’s leading goal scorer three of the last four years, who will miss his 10th consecutive game with a leg injury suffered in a 5-0 win against the Canadiens on Nov. 5.

Sharp is reportedly on the verge of returning, possibly as soon as Wednesday against the Blues, but Quenneville is only pondering how he can topple the Ducks, who beat his team 1-0 on Oct. 28 in Chicago. Among the positives, win would guarantee the Blackhawks a winning mark on the current road trip.

Chicago will have Corey Crawford in goal against the Ducks. Crawford didn't play in the earlier loss to Anaheim as he was sidelined with an upper-body injury. Quenneville wasn’t ready to name a starting goalie for Saturday’s game in Los Angeles, however.

That would be looking too far ahead, no doubt.

By the numbers: Crawford off to best start

November, 28, 2014
11/28/14
12:39
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Here’s a look by the numbers at the Chicago Blackhawks:

" Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford's .926 save percentage is the highest he’s ever had through 16 games of any season. His previous save percentages through 16 games have been .913 (2010-11), .904 (2011-12), .925 (2012-13) and .917 (2013-14).

" Eleven of Crawford’s 16 starts are categorized as quality starts. A quality start is considered a start where a goaltender has at least a .917 save percentage or allows two goals or less with a .885 save percentage.

" The Blackhawks have increased their 5-on-5 production, but it’s still likely to go up. The Blackhawks have a 6.58 shooting percentage in 5-on-5 situations, which ranks 25th in the league. They haven’t had less than an 8.01 shooting percentage in the previous five seasons. They ranked fifth last season with an 8.43 shooting percentage.

" One of the Blackhawks’ focuses this season was improving their record in one-goal games. They were 27th in the NHL with a .425 winning percentage and 17-8-15 record in one-goal games last season. So far, they have slightly improved. They’re 13th in the league with a .500 winning percentage and have a 7-6-1 record. They have won their last three games decided by one goal.

" The Blackhawks are tied for fourth with a 52.6 faceoff winning percentage. They were tied for fifth last season at 52 percent. Jonathan Toews is leading the way this season with a 57.4 percentage (281 of 49) and is followed by Marcus Kruger (56.8, 104 of 183), Ben Smith (51.6, 81 of 157), Brad Richards (48.0, 95 of 198) and Andrew Shaw (47.1, 98 of 108).

" The Blackhawks’ scoring by period has been a bit strange this season. They have scored 25 goals in the first period and 24 goals in the third period, but just 13 goals in the second period. Last season, they scored 68 goals in the first period, 102 in the second and 90 in the third.

" Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith rank seventh and eighth in the league in defensive zone faceoff starts. Kruger is at 47.3 percent and Smith at 47.2 percent. Kruger was seventh last season at 50.7 percent. At the other end, Andrew Shaw, Bryan Bickell and Kris Versteeg rank second (47.7), third (47.6) and fourth (47.2) in offensive zone faceoff starts.

" Hitting doesn’t matter in the Blackhawks’ game, but it’s always interesting to see how far they are away from the league’s leader. The Blackhawks rank 29th in the league with 349 hits. The Los Angeles Kings are first with 697 hits.

" Patrick Kane has had a lot to do with the Blackhawks’ power play this season. He is tied for sixth in the league with 11 power-play points.

" They don’t seem to come back to haunt the Blackhawks often, but Niklas Hjalmarsson has the third most giveaways in the league with 28. On the other side, Marian Hossa is tied for fifth with 21 takeaways.

" The Blackhawks have six players among the league’s top-25 Corsi for percentage leaders (minimum 200 minutes). Those players include Trevor van Riemsdyk (6th, 60.0), Hossa (7th, 59.7), Duncan Keith (11th, 58.6), Toews (19th, 57.9), Kruger (22nd, 57.6) and Hjalmarsson (25th, 57.4).

" The Blackhawks allow 0.98 goals against per 60 minutes in 5-on-5 situations (min. 200 minutes) with Smith on the ice. He ranks 12th in the league in that stat. Hjalmarsson is the best Blackhawks defenseman in that category. He ranks 13th among all defensemen with 1.21 goals against per 60 minutes.

Rapid Reaction: Blackhawks 3, Avalanche 2

November, 26, 2014
11/26/14
10:45
PM CT
By Brent W. New
Special to ESPNChicago.com
Archive
DENVER -- Here's a quick look at how the Chicago Blackhawks finally broke through and beat the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 at the Pepsi Center.

How it happened: It looked like the Mile High City would again prove to be the place the Blackhawks offense went to die. The Hawks had more shots and better chances but couldn't get past 22-year-old Avalanche goalie Calvin Pickard for the better part of two periods, much like the way they couldn't figure out Avs starting goalie Semyon Varlamov in three losses last season at the Pepsi Center. But two power-play goals and a game winner from Bryan Bickell breathed new life in the thin Denver air. Patrick Kane juked around an Avs defender and fed it to Bickell, who scored his second goal of the season with 5:17 remaining.

Earlier in the second period, Jonathan Toews slipped behind Pickard on the crease and scored on Chicago's 25th shot of the game. His ninth goal of the season came after Brent Seabrook rifled a shot that popped out of the back of Pickard's leg pads and trickled slowly toward the left post. Less than three minutes later, Kane pushed a pass to Andrew Shaw, who beat Pickard with 5:39 remaining. Colorado's Ryan O'Reilly finished off a scrum in front of the net early in the third period to tie the game 2-2. The Hawks then killed a 6-on-5 in the final two minutes of the game.

What it means: The Blackhawks are 3-1-0 on their six-game road trip and 13-8-1 on the season. Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said his team is starting to play better despite the 4-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday, and his players backed it up with 45 shots in the win.

Player of the game: Corey Crawford made his 12th consecutive start in net and didn’t look affected by it whatsoever. He made stop after stop to keep an energetic Colorado team from blowing things open early on and then kept them from tying it late. He totaled 27 saves on the night. Kane was the star on the other end, as he totaled three assists.

Stat of the game: Already leading the NHL in killing power plays, the Blackhawks and Crawford -- a lot of Crawford -- shut down the Avs on both their tries on Wednesday. Meanwhile, they scored on two power plays of their own. Crawford and the Avs' Pickard were both special on this night.

What's next: On the last stint of this lengthy road trip, the Blackhawks face the Pacific-leading Anaheim Ducks on Friday before facing the defending champion Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.

Hawks fall despite Corey Crawford's exceptional effort

November, 24, 2014
11/24/14
12:59
AM CT
By Ryan Dittrick
Special to ESPNChicago.com
Archive
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The Chicago Blackhawks looked very much like a team on the second half of a back-to-back set Sunday night.

Disjointed, chaotic, on and on.

[+] EnlargeCrawford
Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA TODAY Sports"Game in, game out, he's giving us a chance," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said of his netminder. "We didn't give him the result he deserved."
For everyone but Corey Crawford, that is.

Fortunate to be tied after 40 minutes of play, the well ran dry -- a sputtering offense failed to produce when, on the flip side, Vancouver Canucks forward Jannik Hansen was busy putting the finishing touches on his first career hat trick in a 4-1 final.

"We didn't have much of anything going tonight," Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville said. "Vancouver had way more pace, way more energy and puck support.

"We were lucky to be in the game."

Making his 11th straight start, Crawford was exceptional -- an elite performance from one of the NHL's best, preventing an otherwise lopsided game from getting out of hand.

"He was amazing. Absolutely amazing," Kris Versteeg, who scored the Hawks’ lone goal, said postgame. “Crow's been great all year, but he was something special tonight, no question. If it wasn't for him, we're probably looking at a different result on the scoreboard. He kept us in it and gave us a chance, which is all you can ever ask from your goaltender … but when we make the kind of saves he was making tonight, it's such a boost. It's a shame we didn't get the result for him tonight."

Among his 26 saves, Crawford’s best will make the highlight reels coast-to-coast for the days, weeks and months ahead -- sure goals thwarted by fine displays of athleticism.

Radim Vrbata, whose deflected shot from the high slot was emphatically picked off by the netminder's glove, was the first to bear witness. Then, in a tie game late in the second period, Crawford had a little magic left in tow, lunging across and extending every inch of his 6-foot-2 frame to negate Henrik Sedin's one-touch offering with the tip of his skate blade.

Crawford came into the night with a 1.90 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage -- elite numbers, indeed.

"He's been excellent. Consistent. Game in, game out, he's giving us a chance," Quenneville said. "We didn't give him the result he deserved."

The Blackhawks were outshot 30-25, but the discrepancy in quality scoring chances was far greater.

The Hawks got on the board at 7:55 of the second period, scoring just 12 seconds into a power-play opportunity.

"On back-to-back nights, you try to play a simple game,” Versteeg said of the team’s lack of execution. "We held ourselves in it for a while … They have some good players over there that can make some great plays, and that's exactly what they did. It was a pace we're generally comfortable with, but whether it was fatigue or something else at play, we couldn't keep up. Tied going into the third period, you've got to be happy with the position you're in. Then we gave up the first one, the next one. Before you know it, we're down by a bunch. We're better than that, and we'll show it.”

Added Hawks forward Patrick Kane: "We have a lot more to give. Tonight wasn't good enough."

Alongside Kane and Brad Richards, Versteeg now has three goals and seven points in his past four games. The winger was one of the Hawks' better forwards tonight, playing nearly 19 minutes and coming to the aid of Kane after No. 88 was drilled with a questionable hit from behind by Canucks defenseman Luca Sbisa late in the opening 20.

Beyond that, the emotion, and the myriad "wow" moments from their all-star netminder, the Blackhawks just couldn't get anything going offensively. The 50-foot neutral zone may as well have been a chasm, entrenched -- appropriately, along the shores of the Pacific Ocean here in Vancouver -- by a sea of blue sweaters.

"Even if we're not dictating the pace of the game, we've got to make sure we're making things more difficult on them to create offense," Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "We made mistakes all over the place and it cost us. We've had a good trip, 'til tonight. It will be good to get some rest before we get back at it on Wednesday in Denver."

Rapid Reaction: Canucks 4, Hawks 1

November, 23, 2014
11/23/14
11:36
PM CT
By Ryan Dittrick
Special to ESPNChicago.com
Archive


VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Here’s a quick look at the Chicago Blackhawks' 4-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday night at Rogers Arena.

How it happened: Jannik Hansen's first career hat trick provided the bulk of the offense in a lopsided game from start to finish. The Canucks, who controlled the pace for much of the evening, drew first blood at 13:13 of the opening period as Hansen capitalized on a bit of a broken play in the slot, slapping a shot past Corey Crawford after eluding checks in the slot. While the Hawks' power-play struggled mightily on the night, it did engineer the equalizer just shy of the 8-minute mark of the second. The red-hot Kris Versteeg connected with a Duncan Keith point blast, redirecting a shot past Ryan Miller just 12 seconds into their third advantage of the night. But the Canucks took over from that point forward, scoring three times in the final frame -- Hansen at 6:24, Radim Vrbata at 17:36 and Hansen again at 19:17, an empty-netter -- sealing victory on a night when the Blackhawks just couldn't get anything going offensively.

What it means: The Hawks suffer their first loss of the circus trip after stringing together a pair of wins off the top. Chicago is now 12-8-1 on the year, third in the Central, and four points back of the division-leading St. Louis Blues.

Player of the game: With the help of an empty-netter, Hansen's hat trick performance lifted the Canucks to victory, but getting there was no easy task. Simply put, Crawford was incredible. Making his 11th straight start, the veteran made 26 saves on the night, many of them miraculous, and was the difference in a game that could have easily gotten out of hand. A pair of world-class stops highlighted the night -- the first coming hot off the stick of Vrbata, who redirected a point shot into the webbing of the goalie’s trapper, while the second, a cross-crease one-time shot by Henrik Sedin, was literally stopped by the width of a skate blade. Crawford lunged across to meet the offering foot-first, stretching his heel to deny the opportunity.

Stat of the game: Versteeg extended his point streak to three, tallying the Hawks' lone goal in the defeat. Alongside Patrick Kane and Brad Richards, the winger now has three goals and seven points in his past three games.

What’s next: The circus trip enters the back half as the Hawks travel back to the States to take on the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday before wrapping up their season-long, six-game excursion with a back-to-back set versus the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Patrick Kane
PTS GOALS AST +/-
51 22 29 9
OTHER LEADERS
GoalsP. Kane 22
AssistsP. Kane 29
+/-J. Toews 16
GAAC. Crawford 2.26