Corey Crawford

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How will Blackhawks respond to Corey Crawford’s latest injury?

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Anyone wanting to conduct a quick experiment on how a team manages life when they lose one of the best goaltenders in the league can look no further than the Chicago Blackhawks.

Corey Crawford, who sits second in save percentage among goalies who have played more than 20 games (starters, basically), will miss at least a week with a fresh injury to his upper body.

The answer to the headline, judging by Crawford’s stint on the shelf earlier this month, isn’t favorable. When Crawford missed three games with injury, the Blackhawks struggled and lost all three. So it’s not unwise to say that Chicago’s playoff picture could hinge greatly on how the team navigates the latest knock for Crawford.

Crawford has been sensational for the Blackhawks and very much the reason why the Blackhawks are even in the conversation for a playoff spot. Crawford’s importance was underlined when he rattled off five straight wins upon his return from injury earlier this month.

“He means a lot to us,” Quenneville told Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times on Wednesday. “You look around at all the goaltenders in the league, he’s probably had the best year to date. How many goalie wins has he had? More than just a few. So we were talking today, we’re going to need everybody to absorb some responsibility here, do a little more individually, adding up collectively. And that can make us a better team. . . . It’s going to be a great test knowing that this could be our most critical part of the year.”

“Great” probably doesn’t mean fun and fantastic, but rather something that presents a massive challenge to the team teetering on the playoff bubble.

The Blackhawks will have to depend on the undependable Anton Forsberg, who has one win in 11 appearances this season. Forsberg starts on Thursday night as the Blackhawks embark on a four-game road trip that goes through Western Canada before a quick stop in New York next week.

As Quenneville pointed out, the Blackhawks are going to need an uptick in their play to make up for Crawford’s absence.

Jonathan Toews hasn’t recorded a point in his past four games, so that might be a start. Ditto for Alex DeBrincat, who is without a point during the same stretch.

While Crawford’s success has been credited to the loaded team in front of him at times in the past, there’s simply not much room for that argument this season for the two-time Stanley Cup winner. And that means Forsberg is going to have to be solid over the coming days (and maybe weeks) if the Blackhawks want to punch their playoff ticket.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Blackhawks ’15-16 Outlook

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Despite the plethora of changes made to their roster this summer, the Chicago Blackhawks should once again be contenders in this season. Immediately following their third Stanley Cup victory in six years, oddsmakers chose Chicago as the favorite to win the cup again.

Chicago’s success this season will depend on how newcomers fair. The Blackhawks lost four key pieces of their team in the offseason with Brandon Saad, Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya and Brad Richards all finding new homes.

Salary cap constraints will force the Blackhawks to rely on younger players such as Teuvo Teravainen this season. The 20-year-old appeared in 34 games with the ‘Hawks last season, scoring four goals and nine points.

Artem Anisimov, acquired in the Saad deal, will likely slot in behind Jonathan Toews as the ‘Hawks second line center. Newcomers Ryan Garbutt and Marko Dano will also fill holes in the Blackhawks roster this season.

Rookies Kyle Baun, Ryan Hartman and Artemi Panarin could also challenge for roster spots.

“I think change is good, and I think we’ve embraced that in the past and been able to bring in some players that now are household names … but at one point they were new,” GM Stan Bowman told NHL.com. “It’s going to be the same thing for some of the new guys that are part of this group next year. They might be new to the fans and media, but as you’ll see in time, I think we’re really going to fall in love with some of these guys.”

Chicago will also have new regulars on the blue line with the likes of Trevor van Riemsdyk and David Rundblad vying for roster spots behind Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Trevor Daley. Erik Gustafsson and Ville Pokka will also battle for spots on the back end.

In goal, Corey Crawford is the clear cut No. 1 while Scott Darling beat out Antti Raanta for the backup role. Raanta was dealt to the New York Rangers during the offseason.

One wild card for the Blackhawks is, of course, Patrick Kane. The 26-year-old is currently the subject of a police investigation. Kane would’ve challenged for the scoring title last season, if a shoulder injury hadn’t forced him to miss the final 21 games of the regular season.

Chicago will once again be a threat in the Western Conference, but how deep they go will depend on how well the newcomers fit.

It’s Chicago Blackhawks day at PHT

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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Chicago Blackhawks.

The Chicago Blackhawks won their third Stanley Cup in six seasons after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games in June.

Defenseman Duncan Keith, who recorded 21 points in 23 playoff games while averaging over 31 minutes a night in ice time, was the recipient of the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP.

After missing the final 21 regular season games due to a broken left clavicle, Patrick Kane returned for the playoffs and finished with a team-leading 11 goals and 23 points.

Despite a slow start to the postseason, Corey Crawford finished with a 13-6 record in 20 appearances while posting a 1.46 G.A.A. and a .924 save percentage.

Chicago finished the regular season with a 48-28-6 record – good for the third seed in the Central Division.

Jonathan Toews led the Blackhawks in scoring with 28 goals and 65 points in 81 games. Despite playing in just 61 games, Kane was right behind Toews in team scoring with 27 goals and 64 points.

Off-season recap

Following the cup win Toews admitted the 2015 win felt a lot like 2010. With new contracts for Toews and Kane set to kick in, and the Blackhawks up against the salary cap, GM Stan Bowman was forced to trade away key pieces.

To get things started, Bowman dealt Brandon Saad to the Columbus Blue Jackets in a seven-player trade. Chicago received Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano, Jeremy Morin, Corey Tropp and a 2016 fourth round pick in return.

Brad Richards left for Detroit signing a one-year, $3 million deal.

Then Bowman dealt Patrick Sharp to the Dallas Stars along with Stephen Johns in exchange for Trevor Daley and Ryan Garbutt.

Five days later, Johnny Oduya joined Sharp in Dallas signing a two-year, $7.5 million deal.

Antoine Vermette returned to Arizona signing a two-year contract with the Coyotes.

Chicago also dealt goaltender Antti Raanta to the New York Rangers for Ryan Haggerty.

There are still question marks surrounding the Blackhawks’ roster as training camp gets set to open next month. Kane’s situation remains uncertain, as he is the subject of a police investigation.

Marcus Kruger and Joakim Nordstrom remain restricted free agents while Dan Carcillo is pondering retirement, as he remains unsigned.

It’s Montreal Canadiens day at PHT

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If you wanted the story of Montreal’s ’14-15 campaign, all you had to do was watch the NHL Awards.

Or more specifically, the Carey Price awards.

Price was at the microphone four times to celebrate his banner campaign: Once for the Hart Trophy as league MVP, once for the Vezina as the NHL’s top netminder, once for the Ted Lindsay award as the most outstanding player as voted by the players, and once for the William Jennings Trophy as a goalie on the team that allowed the fewest goals in the regular season.

OK, he did have to share that last one with Corey Crawford. But you get the idea.

Simplistic as it sounds, Montreal’s season was mostly about Price, in that the Habs went as far as their star goalie would take them. Sure, other Canadiens played integral roles — Max Pacioretty scored 37 goals, P.K. Subban was a Norris Finalist — but for the most part, the 50 wins and 110 points and second-round playoff appearance was due to No. 31.

Which begs the question:

Can he do it again?

Off-season recap

GM Marc Bergevin’s spent most of the summer attending to in-house business. All three of his trade deadline pickups — Brian Flynn, Torrey Mitchell and Jeff Petry — were extended, with Petry scoring the biggest with a six-year, $33 million deal.

Youngsters Alex Galchenyuk, Michael Bournival, Jarred Tinordi, Christian Thomas, Greg Pateryn and Nathan Beaulieu were also given new deals, while veterans Mike Weaver, Sergei Gonchar, Manny Malhotra and P.A. Parenteau (via buyout) were sent packing.

As for new faces? Zack Kassian was acquired from Vancouver in exchange for Brandon Prust, while Carolina castoff Alex Semin was signed to a one-year, $1.1M deal after the ‘Canes bought him out.

At the draft, Montreal used its first-round pick to select WHL Everett blueliner Noah Juulsen 26th overall.

All in all, it was a perfunctory offseason for the Habs. Firmly in the mix as an Eastern Conference contender, the club didn’t feel the need to make a big summer splash — in fact, based on the Flynn and Mitchell and Petry contracts, it could be argued that Bergevin’s upgrading happened on Mar. 2, not July 1.

Looking to make the leap: Jacob Markstrom

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Canucks GM Jim Benning cleared a path for Jacob Markstrom to start the 2015-16 campaign with Vancouver by trading Eddie Lack, but this is far from the first time Markstrom has been given a good opportunity to establish himself in the NHL. The question is, will things be different this time around?

There certainly is the potential for that after the season he had in the minors. He was dominant with the AHL’s Utica Comets, posting a 1.88 GAA and .934 save percentage in 32 regular season contests. From there Markstrom led Utica to the Calder Cup Finals with a 2.11 GAA and .925 save percentage in 23 playoff games.

“I think if you look at the history of, whether it be Corey Crawford or Ben Bishop, or these types of players and how they perform at the American Hockey League level, and look at stats and numbers, you can put Jacob in that category,” Canucks president Trevor Linden argued in June.

“He’s had an excellent year. He needs to continue to develop at the National Hockey League level, and we’re going to give him that opportunity.”

Markstrom still has a 3.19 GAA and .896 save percentage in 50 NHL contests, but to be fair to him, he’s just 25 years old and goaltenders can take longer to find their games than forwards or defensemen.

To that end, Linden didn’t simply use those goaltenders as examples because they were the competing netminders in this year’s Stanley Cup Final. Crawford was 25 years old (26 on Dec. 31) in his first full campaign with Chicago while Bishop didn’t participate in more than 22 games in a single season until 2013-14 when he was 27 years old (as of Nov. 21 of that campaign).

So it would be premature to dismiss Markstrom just because he hasn’t developed as quickly as some anticipated. This time — as the backup to Ryan Miller — he might be ready to take advantage of the opportunity he’s been given.