Chicago Blackhawks: Corey Crawford

Hawks fall despite Corey Crawford's exceptional effort

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
12:59
AM CT
By Ryan Dittrick
Special to ESPNChicago.com
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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
Nov 23
11:36
PM CT
By Ryan Dittrick
Special to ESPNChicago.com
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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.

Rapid Reaction: Blackhawks 5, Sharks 2

November, 9, 2014
Nov 9
9:19
PM CT
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CHICAGO – Here’s a quick look at the Chicago Blackhawks’ 5-2 win over the San Jose Sharks on Sunday at the United Center:
How it happened: The Blackhawks put themselves in a comfortable position by scoring the game’s first three goals. Blackhawks defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk tallied his first career NHL goal. That was followed by goals by defensemen Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson, which put the Blackhawks up 3-0 in the first period. Sharks forward Joe Pavelski trimmed that lead to one by scoring at the net in the first period and on a power play in the second period. The Sharks were pushing for the game-tying goal until Bryan Bickell scored with 4:42 remaining in the game to put the Hawks ahead 4-2. Jonathan Toews added an empty-net goal for the Blackhawks. Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi made 32 saves on 36 shots. Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford stopped 32 of 34 shots.

What it means: The Blackhawks snapped a three-game home losing streak. The Blackhawks looked like they were traveling down the same path as their latest game. They built a 2-0 lead on the Washington Capitals on Friday and lost 3-2 at home. The Blackhawks prevented that Sunday. They especially stepped up in the third period. The Blackhawks were due for the four even-strength goals they scored. They came into the game with a 5.0 shooting percentage in 5-on-5 situations. The Blackhawks improved to 8-6-1 on the season. The Sharks, who were coming off a win Saturday over the Dallas Stars, dropped to 8-6-2. Crawford held an opponent to two goals or fewer for the seventh time this season.

Player of the game: Van Riemsdyk scored his first career NHL goal and was also promoted to the Blackhawks’ top pairing with Duncan Keith.

Stat of the game: The Blackhawks scored three goals within a 2:34 stretch of the first period.

What’s next: The Blackhawks continue their three-game home stand with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.

W2W4: Capitals at Blackhawks

November, 7, 2014
Nov 7
1:01
PM CT
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CHICAGO -- Here’s what to watch for when the Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks play at the United Center on Friday:

• The Blackhawks are coming off one of their best games of the season, a 5-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday. It was just the fourth time they scored more than two goals in a game this season. The win snapped a two-game losing streak and improved them to 7-5-1.

• The Capitals have dropped their last five games and are 4-5-3 on the season. Alex Ovechkin (six goals, seven assists) and Nicklas Backstrom (three goals, 10 assists) each lead the Capitals with 13 points.

• The Blackhawks will be without forward Patrick Sharp for 3-4 weeks after he suffered a lower-body injury Tuesday. He has three goals, six assists and is third among the team’s forwards in ice time this season. The Blackhawks are also still without forward Daniel Carcillo, who was injured Oct. 25. The Blackhawks recalled Peter Regin on Thursday to give them 12 healthy forwards.

• The Blackhawks’ lines are expected to be Ben SmithJonathan ToewsPatrick Kane, Brandon SaadAndrew ShawMarian Hossa, Bryan BickellMarcus KrugerKris Versteeg, Regin – Brad RichardsJeremy Morin. The defenseman pairings are expected to be Duncan KeithBrent Seabrook, Johnny OduyaNiklas Hjalmarsson and Trevor van RiemsdykDavid Rundblad.

• Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford will start his fourth consecutive game since returning from injury. He’s 4-2-1 with a 1.53 goals-against average and .938 save percentage this season.

Braden Holtby will start in net for the Capitals. He’s 3-3-2 with a 2.67 goals-against average and .891 save percentage this season.

• The Capitals are one of the league’s premier power-play teams and are second in the NHL at 29.3 percent. The Blackhawks lead the league with a 92.7 penalty-kill percentage.

• The two teams will next meet in the Winter Classic, which will be held at Nationals Park on Jan. 1, 2015. The players wore winter caps in their dressing rooms during interviews Friday.

Crawford solid despite lack of support

November, 4, 2014
Nov 4
1:08
PM CT
By Kelsey Patterson
Special to ESPNChicago.com
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The Chicago Blackhawks may have been struggling to find the back of the net lately, but so has their opposition.

Twelve games into Chicago’s season and the team’s netminders -- starter Corey Crawford and backups Antti Raanta and Scott Darling -- are conceding an NHL fifth-best 1.92 goals per game.

Leading the way is Crawford, who is playing some of his best hockey for the Hawks. The Montreal native allowed just seven goals on 95 shots through his first four games of the season before an upper-body injury forced him out of the lineup for six games.

Since his return on Oct. 18, Crawford picked up where he left off. The 29-year old stopped 50 of 54 shots over his last two games for a .926 save percentage -- both losses.

“I feel really good in the net,” said Crawford, who’s allowing a career-best 1.78 goals per game on average this season. “Before I got hurt, I was playing some of the best hockey of my career so far. I’m just trying to continue to do that.”

Even though impressive performances between the pipes aren’t necessarily leading to points in the standings -- Chicago’s slumbering offense has scored just 12 goals in its last seven games -- Crawford is not getting discouraged.

“I don’t get frustrated because I think we’re going to end up scoring throughout the game,” said Crawford, who made 26 saves in a 1-0 losing effort versus the Winnipeg Jets his last time out. “I do my job and focus on stopping the puck. I believe every night that we’re going to score goals.”

Offensive threats like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, who have not gotten the best starts to their season, know the first month of the hockey season could have gone worse for the 10th-place Blackhawks if Crawford wasn’t on his game every night.

“He’s been great,” Kane said. “He had a great start to the season. He’s played really strong since he’s come back, too.

"We all know he’s the guy, and we’re really confident with the way he plays back there. Obviously we try to play good defense in front of him, but when that’s not there he always seems to answer the call and does well with the challenge.”

Added Toews: “The stops he’s making have been unbelievable. He’s a huge part of our team. But we may be relying on him a little too much some nights.”

(Read full post)

Darling reassigned to Rockford

October, 31, 2014
Oct 31
11:14
AM CT
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The Chicago Blackhawks reassigned goaltender Scott Darling to the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL on Friday.

Darling, 25, was recalled by the Blackhawks on Oct. 21 after Corey Crawford suffered an injury. Darling started the Blackhawks’ last three games and was 2-1-0 with a 1.98 goals-against average and .933 save percentage.

Darling made his last start against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday. He had 28 saves on 32 shots in a 5-4 shootout win. He stopped all three shootout shots.

Crawford backed up Darling on Thursday and is expected to start Saturday. Antti Raanta will remain the Blackhawks’ No. 2 goalie. Raanta is 1-2-0 with a 2.03 goals-against average and .933 save percentage this season.

Quenneville to choose between Darling, Raanta

October, 29, 2014
Oct 29
1:43
PM CT
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville prefers not to classify it as a goalie controversy, but he will soon decide which of his backup goaltenders, Scott Darling or Antti Raanta, will stick in the NHL and who will be assigned to the AHL.

“I don’t know if it’s a controversy,” Quenneville said after his team’s practice Wednesday. “I would say it’s an opportunity right now internally where the situation has played out the way it has. Organizationally, we think it’s a healthy position. Like any player or individual, everybody wants to play. Everybody wants to play more. That’s what makes it so competitive in our business.

“It’s something we’ll talk about. I think it’s a good discussion, a lot of positives either way. Probably a lot of variables that will be weighed in on the decision, so we’ll see.”

Blackhawks No. 1 goaltender Corey Crawford practiced again Wednesday and could start against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday, Quenneville said. Crawford has missed the last five games with an upper-body injury. All three goaltenders will travel to Ottawa.

Once Crawford has completely recovered from his recent injury and is ready to play, Quenneville will decide between Darling and Raanta as his backup goaltender. Quenneville said it was “very doubtful” he would keep three goalies.

Raanta won the backup spot out of training camp and started the first three games after Crawford’s injury. Raanta went 1-2-0 with a 2.03 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage in those three games.

Scott Darling, who was recalled after Crawford’s injury, was given his first NHL start Sunday in the second game of a back-to-back. He stopped 32 of 33 shots in a 2-1 win over the Senators in his debut and was rewarded with a second start Tuesday. He made 24 saves on 25 shots in a 1-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. He allowed just a shorthanded goal in both games.

“I’ve been very happy with him,” Quenneville said of Darling. “He hasn’t done anything wrong anytime he’s been in the net. It’s been a real positive story for us, very good start for him.”

The Blackhawks can send Darling or Raanta to Rockford IceHogs of the AHL without them having to clear waivers.

Raanta said Wednesday he hadn’t considered whether he might be sent to the AHL. He did think the competition was good for him and the Blackhawks.

“I haven’t [thought] about those things yet,” Raanta said of the AHL. “I just try to do my thing, and we’ll see how far that goes.

“Of course, this is the NHL, so you can’t start thinking too much about yourself. You have to always be on top of your game and like that. It’s a good thing that we have good goalies in the organization, and we have a good competition all the time for the No.1 and No. 2 spots.”

Crawford close to playing, Darling to start again

October, 28, 2014
Oct 28
2:59
PM CT
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford returned to practice with his teammates Tuesday and could play as early as Thursday after missing the last week with an upper-body injury.

Crawford will miss his fifth consecutive game when the Blackhawks play the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday. He will travel with the team Wednesday and could play against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday.

“Wanted to get [Crawford] in here today,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said after his team’s morning skate on Tuesday. “We’ll give an extra couple of days. He’ll be going on the trip with us and we’ll see how Thursday plays out.”

Crawford wouldn’t say when or how the injury occurred. He last practiced with the Blackhawks on Oct. 20. He began skating again over the weekend and joined his team in their morning skate on Tuesday.

“I’m getting pretty close,” Crawford said. “First practice with the team today, practiced couple times the last two days and I feel better, getting there.

“Very frustrating. I don’t know if there’s anything worse in sports than when you’re injured and watching the game, either in the room or on TV. Pretty frustrating. I just want to get out there and play, but you have to be smart, too, and make sure I’m 100 percent before I go.”

Crawford is 3-0-1 with a 1.66 goals-against average and .926 save percentage in four games this season.

Scott Darling will make his second consecutive start for the Blackhawks on Tuesday. Darling was recalled after Crawford’s injury and made his NHL debut on Sunday. He stopped 32 of 33 shots in a 2-1 win over Senators.

“His play is the reason he’s getting right back in there,” Quenneville said. “Rock solid every time he’s been in the net for us from preseason scrimmages to exhibition games to last game, did well in Rockford. He’s played very well. Chance to come right back.”

Antti Raanta started the previous three games in Crawford’s place. He is 1-2-0 with a 2.03 goals-against average and .933 save percentage this season.

Raanta understood Quenneville’s decision to start Darling.

“This is hockey,” Raanta said. “Scotty played a great game, so he got a win. That’s how it goes here. If you win a game, you get a start. Just have to put the work suit on and go back to the practice and work harder and get better all the time. It’s a matter of time when I get that good 60 minutes of what I’m looking for, and I get those easy goals out of my game.”

Crawford improving from upper-body injury

October, 25, 2014
Oct 25
12:54
PM CT
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ST. LOUIS -- Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford was scheduled to skate in Chicago on Saturday after recently suffering an upper-body injury, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said.

Crawford will miss a third consecutive game Saturday due to the injury. He last practiced Monday. He is 3-0-1 with a 1.66 goals-against average and .926 save percentage this season.

“Crawford was to skate here this morning,” Quenneville said. “And we’ll know more tomorrow. Hopefully, he’s back on the ice tomorrow. He’s going much better.”

Quenneville said he doesn’t expect Crawford to play against the Ottawa Senators on Sunday. Quenneville said rookie goaltender Scott Darling could make his NHL debut against the Senators.

Antti Raanta will start against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday. He is 1-1-0 with a 1.52 goals-against average and .949 save percentage in his two starts in Crawford’s place.

Crawford to miss two more games

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
1:03
PM CT
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford will miss the next two games due to an upper-body injury, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said on Wednesday.

Quenneville said Crawford will not travel with the team to play the Nashville Predators on Thursday and the St. Louis Blues on Saturday. He hoped Crawford would resume skating while the team was away.

Crawford practiced on Monday and didn’t show any signs of an injury, but Quenneville said Crawford didn’t feel good on Monday night and felt worse on Tuesday morning. Crawford sat out Tuesday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers. He started the team's first four games.

Antti Raanta replaced Crawford and stopped all 32 shots he faced in a 4-0 win over the Flyers on Tuesday. Raanta is expected to start the next two games.

The Blackhawks have back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday. Quenneville said he would address his starting goaltender for Sunday’s game against the Ottawa Senators on the day of the game. He said Scott Darling, who was recalled from the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL on Tuesday, could start on Sunday.

W2W4: Flyers at Blackhawks

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
12:53
PM CT
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CHICAGO -- Here’s what to watch for when the Philadelphia Flyers and Chicago Blackhawks play at the United Center on Tuesday:

• The Blackhawks will be without No. 1 goaltender Corey Crawford due to an upper-body injury. Antti Raanta will make his season debut. Raanta learned he would start on Tuesday morning. He was 13-5-4 with a 2.71 goals-against average and .897 save percentage as a rookie during the 2013-14 season.

• Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg will also make his season debut Tuesday after missing four games with a lower-body injury.

• The Blackhawks are riding a four-game points streak with a 3-0-1 record to start the season. They have been pleased with their record and their shot quantity -- they’re averaging a league-best 40 shots on goal per game -- but haven’t been happy with their goal quantity. They have scored 11 goals, with six of those coming in one game. Their 11 goals have been divided between six at even strength, three on the power play and two shorthanded.

• The Flyers arrive in Chicago with a 1-2-2 record and are coming off a 6-5 overtime win over the Dallas Stars on Saturday. Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds each have seven points for the Flyers. Simmonds is tied for second in the league with five goals. Goaltender Steve Mason will start in net. He is 0-2-1 with a 3.78 goals-against average and .865 save percentage this season.

• Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has switched up his lines in hope of getting more offense. His first three lines will be Patrick SharpJonathan ToewsMarian Hossa, Versteeg – Andrew ShawPatrick Kane and Bryan BickellBrad RichardsBrandon Saad. The fourth line will include Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith, but Quenneville wouldn’t say whether Daniel Carcillo or Jeremy Morin would also be on that line. The Blackhawks’ defenseman pairings are expected to be Duncan KeithBrent Seabrook, Johnny OduyaNiklas Hjalmarsson and Trevor van RiemsdykMichal Rozsival.

• The Blackhawks’ focus will be on improving their power play. They were 0-for-5 on the advantage Saturday and are 3-for-21 for the season.

“You could talk about every area the other night and say it has to be better,” Quenneville said. “Faceoffs, retrievals, shot selection, lack of shots, entries, every area. We have to be better across the board. We can’t be happy with the last game.”

W2W4: Predators at Blackhawks

October, 18, 2014
Oct 18
11:59
AM CT
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CHICAGO -- Here’s what to watch for when the Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks play at the United Center on Saturday:

• The Blackhawks are 2-0-1 and have picked up at least a point in their first three games. They’re coming off a disappointing 2-1 overtime loss to the Calgary Flames. The Blackhawks outshot the Flames on goal 50-18.

• Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival will make his season debut Saturday. He missed the first three games with an upper-body injury. Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg will miss a fourth consecutive game with a lower-body injury. Versteeg participated in the team’s morning skate and is ahead of schedule after suffering an injury Oct. 7. He was originally expected to miss three weeks.

• The Blackhawks' defensive pairings will be different from the first three games. The pairings are expected to be Duncan KeithBrent Seabrook, Johnny OduyaNiklas Hjalmarsson and Trevor van Riemsdyk – Rozsival. The lines will be Patrick SharpJonathan ToewsMarian Hossa, Brandon SaadAndrew ShawPatrick Kane, Bryan BickellBrad RichardsBen Smith and Daniel CarcilloMarcus KrugerJeremy Morin.

• Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford has allowed two goals in each game this season. He has a 1.90 goals-against average and stopped 69-of-75 shots for a .920 save percentage.

• One of the Blackhawks’ focuses against the Predators will be being more direct with scoring opportunities. They felt they were too “cute” with the puck against the Flames and lacked quality chances.

“We counted the chances we could’ve had, probably 10 of the 15 were A-plus, another five would’ve been real chances that didn’t even qualify as scoring chances,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “Whether too cute, not bearing down or not aware, and some of the pressure from them, give them some credit as well. A lot of times in that area, you don’t need style points to score goals. We need to finish, and I think that’s a little disappointing at that end of the game because we did so many other good things. We should’ve been rewarded somewhere.”

• The Blackhawks have scored a power-play goal in each of the first three games. They are 3-of-16 on the power play and 10-of-11 on the penalty kill. The Predators are 1-of-12 on the power play and 10-of-12 on the penalty kill.

• The Predators improved to 3-0-1 with a 2-0 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Friday. Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne made 31 saves in the shutout. Filip Forsberg leads the Predators with five points. The Predators haven’t allowed more than two goals this season and are second in the league with a 1.30 goals-against average.

• Former Blackhawk Viktor Stalberg made his season debut Friday. He missed the first three games with a lower-body injury.

Crawford saves the day for the Hawks

October, 10, 2014
Oct 10
12:05
AM CT
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DALLAS -- Chicago Blackhawks hockey has looked a certain way in recent seasons.

It’s been about puck possession, getting the puck out of their defensive zone -- through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone in rapid fashion -- limiting opponents' scoring chances and rolling four lines.

The hockey the Blackhawks were playing through 40 minutes of their season opener Thursday against the Dallas Stars resembled something much different.

"Certainly, it was tough to watch for 40," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville admitted afterward.

The Stars had a lot to do with that. They were fast and aggressive and had the Blackhawks struggling to connect on the simplest of passes out of their defensive zone. Penalties also factored, with the Blackhawks compiling six through the first two periods and fighting off power plays for nearly 10 minutes. They were taken completely out of their usual game.

Add all those ingredients together and the Stars could have made a significant statement and trounced the Blackhawks to start the season. The Stars had the quantity -- 54 total shots, including 24 on net -- and quality to put the Blackhawks away.

Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford wouldn't allow that to happen.

While his teammates were searching for any sort of rhythm on Day 1, Crawford quickly found his groove. He denied chance after chance, including a couple at point-blank range, and kept the Blackhawks in the game. He ended up with 32 saves, including 14 in the second period, and stopped all three of the Stars' shootout chances to carry the Blackhawks to a 3-2 victory.

Quenneville thought someone should call 911 on his team.

"We have to call the cops; we stole two points tonight," Quenneville said. "Crow was great -- that first period, the second period even better. You know we got going in the third. Certainly, call that a goalie win. I thought they were quick and they came at us."

Crawford's teammates understood what he did for them.

"I think no question he was the first star of the game," said Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp, who had a goal and an assist. "If it wasn't for him, we would have been in a lot of trouble, especially early on. Even down the stretch, the last minute of third period, shootout, you want to take a clip from any part of that game, and he was the best player on the ice."

Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane used his own share of adjectives to describe Crawford's performance.

"I know Q [Quenneville] calls it a goaltender win, and I think that was more evident today than ever before," Kane said. "He was awesome. He made some unbelievable saves. Couple breakdowns by us that we can probably clean up a little bit, and even in the last minute he had a big save when we were on the power play. So we'll call that one, in Q's words, a goaltender win."

Crawford shrugged off the praise. It was all in a day's work from his perspective.

"I don't know about bailout," Crawford said. "Just in there trying to do my job. It definitely was a pretty slow start for us. We gained our timing as the game went on and gained our confidence and that speed and puck-possession game as we went further into the game. You could see that.

"I felt good. I was seeing the puck well, reading the plays, staying pretty patient for the most part. That was pretty solid overall, I think."

Rapid Reaction: Blackhawks 3, Stars 2 (SO)

October, 9, 2014
Oct 9
10:32
PM CT
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video
 
DALLAS -- Here’s a quick look at the Chicago Blackhawks' 3-2 shootout victory over the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center on Thursday:

How it happened: The Blackhawks pulled out the season-opening game by winning in a shootout. The Stars controlled possession for much of the game, but didn’t have the goals to show for it. Duncan Keith first put Chicago ahead with a late first-period goal. Dallas answered with two second-period tallies. Trevor Daley scored a power-play goal at 10 minutes, 13 seconds of the frame and Cody Eakin added a second goal at 15:04. The Blackhawks fought back and tied the game when Patrick Sharp netted a power-play goal from the top of the right circle at 11:10 of the third period. Things remained that way through the rest of the third and overtime. The Stars outshot the Blackhawks 34-26 on goal. Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen made 24 saves; Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford had 32. Chicago forward Patrick Kane scored the lone shootout goal.

What it means: The Blackhawks looked out of sorts for the first 2½ periods Thursday and must feel fortunate to pull out the two points. The Stars could have run away with that game if it hadn't been for Crawford’s play. It didn’t help the Blackhawks that coach Joel Quenneville already shied away from playing the fourth line, particularly Daniel Carcillo, and defenseman David Rundblad. The Blackhawks might have to look into placing Kris Versteeg on long-term injury reserve if Quenneville can’t trust Carcillo. It’s the only way the Blackhawks can afford to bring someone up from the AHL.

Player of the game: Crawford stole the game for the Blackhawks. He had 32 saves and denied all three of the Stars’ shootout opportunities.

Stat of the game: The Stars blocked nine of Keith’s shots and combined for 26 blocks in all.

What’s next: The Blackhawks host the Buffalo Sabres at the United Center in Saturday's home opener. Four of the Blackhawks’ first five games are at home.

Blackhawks season preview: 5 questions

October, 9, 2014
Oct 9
11:10
AM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
1. Are the Chicago Blackhawks better built to win the Stanley Cup this season?

The Blackhawks were a favorable bounce away from reaching the Stanley Cup finals again last season, so it’s difficult to say last year’s team was poorly constructed. But it did have flaws. Michal Handzus couldn’t duplicate his 2013 playoff performances and held the Blackhawks back as their second-line center. The acquisition of Kris Versteeg never gave the Blackhawks the boost they hoped for because his knee just wasn’t strong enough to get him around the ice quick enough. Brandon Bollig and the fourth line became a liability when Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith were taken off the line. Nick Leddy and Michal Rozsival also had their share of mistakes at the back end. Chicago also lacked the center depth to match up with the Los Angeles Kings.

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AP PhotoBrad Richards may not be the swiftest on the ice, but his vision and power-play experience are assets for the Blackhawks.
Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman addressed most of those issues in the offseason. Handzus is gone and Brad Richards is in. The Blackhawks feel more confident with Jonathan Toews, Andrew Shaw, Richards and Kruger down the middle. Teuvo Teravainen could also be in the mix at center at some point this season. Jeremy Morin was re-signed and actually will be provided a consistent opportunity to play. Bollig was traded. Signing Daniel Carcillo was unexpected, but Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has said he likes a fourth line of Smith, Kruger and Morin. Versteeg looked faster in the preseason, but his recent injury, which will likely keep him out three weeks, is another bump in the road for him. If healthy, the Blackhawks have four lines capable of giving them more depth than they had a season ago. Defensively, they’re rolling the dice with some inexperience but still have four reliable defensemen. Corey Crawford still is good enough in net to win a Stanley Cup.

The Blackhawks are favored by many to win the Stanley Cup, but they certainly aren’t a sure thing. They are better on paper in some areas compared with last season, but the defense has to be a concern to start the season. Versteeg’s injury already has set the team back. With him healthy, the Blackhawks have four strong lines. Without him, the Blackhawks aren’t as deep. The Central Division is going to be a gauntlet. There certainly will be many challengers and a favorable bounce may be required somewhere down the line, but the Blackhawks do have the pieces to win another Stanley Cup.

2. What does Brad Richards’ addition mean to the Blackhawks?

Richards is undoubtedly an upgrade over Handzus. Richards isn’t a speed demon, but he can get up in the play, has vision and can create for himself and others. His power-play experience should also come in handy. The first question about him is where he fits in now. He was aligned to center Brandon Saad and Patrick Kane through five preseason games, but Quenneville caught another glimpse of Saad, Shaw and Kane together and everything changed. Richards was moved to center the third line. The second question is how Richards will hold up over the entire season. His play varied for the New York Rangers throughout last year's regular season and playoff run. Richards is out to prove he still has plenty left in the tank and is hungry for a Stanley Cup, so the motivation is in place.

3. How good does Corey Crawford need to be in net for the Blackhawks to win?

There have been two Corey Crawfords in recent seasons. There has been the one who is average during the regular season. He has some good games and some bad games, and he ends up somewhere in the middle of the pack among the league’s goaltenders. Then there’s the Crawford who is lights-out in the playoffs. The Blackhawks could have been eliminated by the St. Louis Blues in the first round last season if it wasn’t for Crawford. The Blackhawks are hopeful Crawford is more of the latter than the former this season. He doesn’t have to match Tuukka Rask’s numbers, but he has to give Chicago a consistent chance to win the game whenever he steps into the net.

4. Can Brandon Saad take the next step?

The Blackhawks saw glimpses of Saad’s potential during his first two seasons, but they hadn’t witnessed anything like his play against the Kings in the Western Conference finals. He was dominant. His skating, strength, work ethic, offensive skill set and patience were all at another level. And it was apparent that he and Kane were creating something special out there. Saad must now prove he can repeat that more often than not. While he has established himself as a top-six forward, he still has shown signs of being a young player, especially from a consistency standpoint. Aside from it being his third year in the NHL and him being a year older, Saad should benefit being alongside Kane again. The sample size is large enough now to see Saad and Kane produce when they’re together. On another note, the Blackhawks were at their best last season when Quenneville had Toews, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa together.

5. How much does Nick Leddy’s departure affect the Blackhawks?

The Blackhawks had to trade someone to get under the salary cap. That was the reality of their situation. But by making Leddy the one to go, the Blackhawks are taking a risk with some unproven defensemen. You know what you have in Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson. You don’t exactly know what Kyle Cumiskey, David Rundblad and Trevor van Riemsdyk will provide. Even to an extent, it’s difficult to gauge what Rozsival still can give the Blackhawks. Chicago may be just fine without Leddy and may find the right combination of defensemen to make things work. But there will be a trial period before the Blackhawks can be confident in all six of their defensemen. If the Blackhawks can figure out their fifth and sixth defensemen, their chances of winning another Stanley Cup improve.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jonathan Toews
PTS GOALS AST +/-
18 9 9 1
OTHER LEADERS
GoalsJ. Toews 9
AssistsM. Hossa 12
+/-N. Hjalma... 7
GAAC. Crawford 1.98