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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

The Buzzer: Merry Christmas Edition

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Players of the Night:

Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders: Barzal recorded his first career NHL hat trick against the Winnipeg Jets and took over the rookie scoring lead with 35 points. Not a bad day.

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning, John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks, James Reimer, Florida Panthers, Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights, and Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks: Each of these goaltenders recorded shutouts on Saturday night. Vasilevskiy got his fourth of the season, stopping 22 shots to tie Sergei Bobrovsky for the NHL lead in shutouts; Gibson made 29 saves, including one you will see below on Sidney Crosby; Reimer stopped all 38 shots sent his way by the Ottawa Senators; Fleury kept the Capitals in check, stopping 26 shots for his first shutout of the season; and Jones dethroned the Kings, stopping all 28 shots he faced.

Dallas Stars penalty killers: The Stars appeared dead in the water after Jamie Benn and Dan Hamhuis took penalties in overtime against the Nashville Predators, but Ben Bishop and Co. weathered the storm, which included 31 seconds of 5-on-3 time, and ended up taking the game in a shootout on Tyler Seguin‘s winner.

Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks: Kane became the fifth player in Blackhawks history to record his 300th NHL goal on Saturday.

Highlights of the Night:

John Gibson did this to Sidney Crosby tonight:

Barzal’s hatty deserves its spot here:

Taylor Hall scored on this ridiculous deke. Poor Anton Forsberg:

Alexander Radulov‘s shootout goal was pretty filthy:

Factoids of the Night: 

More Barzal:

Vegas keeps, well, Vegasing.

Brock Boeser smashes Pavel Bure’s record by 15 games:

“Merry Christmas to me,” Brock Boeser said, probably.

MISC: 

Scores: 

Bruins 3, Red Wings 1

Islanders 5, Jets 2

Oilers 4, Canadiens 1

Lightning 3, Wild 0

Panthers 1, Senators 0

Devils 4, Blackhawks 1

Ducks 4, Penguins 0

Hurricanes 4, Sabres 2

Blue Jackets 2, Flyers 1 (SO)

Golden Knights 3, Capitals 0

Avalanche 6, Coyotes 2

Stars 4, Predators 3 (SO)

Sharks 2, Kings 0

Blues 3, Canucks 1

Merry Christmas and happy holidays, everyone!


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

The Buzzer: Seven overtimes, four shootouts and a shutout

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Players of the Night:

Ben Bishop, Dallas Stars: Bishop made 24 saves en route to his second shutout of the season. Bishop had lost his previous four starts, so it was a nice bounce-back from the veteran netminder. He can also say he backstopped Ken Hitchcock’s 800th win as a head coach now.

Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks: Thornton scored twice in Thursday’s 5-4 overtime win against the Vancouver Canucks. His second goal was his 1,415th point of his NHL career, moving him into sole possession of 18th spot all-time, one point ahead of Doug Gilmour.

Dustin Brown, Los Angeles Kings: Talk about embracing the moment. Brown, playing in his 1,000th NHL game, scored the overtime winner for the Kings as they squeaked out a 2-1 win against the Colorado Avalanche.

Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins: It was the dude’s birthday, and much like Brown did, he took hold of the moment, scoring the shootout winner in a 2-1 win against the Winnipeg Jets.

Coach of the Night: 

Ken Hitchcock, Dallas Stars: These don’t make regular appearances in The Buzzer, but then again, coaches don’t often record their 800th career NHL win. In fact, only three have even done it and Hitchcock is now one of them. Can you guess the other two? The answer is below.

Highlights of the Night:

Thornton’s second of the night was a pretty nice clap bomb:

Jake Virtanen went coast-to-coast on this fine effort:

Cam Talbot nearly gave up a goal and then he gave us this save:

This dog dropped a puck. It was cute because dog:

Factoid of the Night:

Ken Hitchcock joined some pretty elite company on Thursday:

MISC:

Scores:

Bruins 2, Jets 1 (SO)

Devils 4, Rangers 3 (SO)

Ducks 5, Islanders 4 (OT)

Penguins 3, Blue Jackets 2 (SO)

Lightning 4, Senators 3 (SO)

Hurricanes 4, Predators 1

Stars 4, Blackhawks 0

Oilers 3, Blues 2

Sharks 5, Canucks 4 (

Kings 2, Avalanche 1 (OT)


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

The Buzzer: McElhinney with the McShutout, Schenn scores again

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Players of the Night: 

Curtis McElhinney, Toronto Maple Leafs:

McElhinney turned aside all 41 shots that came his way as the Leafs shutout the Edmonton Oilers 1-0. The Leafs backup improved to 3-2-0 on the season and his save percentage jumped from .900 to 9.25. Toronto has now won three straight and six of their past 10.

Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues:

Schenn notched his sixth goal in his past four games and extended his goal-scoring streak to four games with a goal 40 seconds into the game. The Blues are now winners of four straight and six of their past 10.

Eric Stall, Minnesota Wild & Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks: 

Both scored twice for their respective teams in an entertaining 4-3 win for the Wild in overtime.

Highlight of the Night: 

Vladimir Tarasenko catches the Sabres defense sleeping in overtime, scoring his first non-empty net goal in nine games:

Factoid of the Night: 

Patrick Kane didn’t score, but his two assists were instrumental in giving the Chicago Blackhawks a victory on Sunday.

Scores: 

Blackhawks 3, Coyotes 1

Blues 3, Sabres 2 (OT)

Maple Leafs 1, Oilers 0

Wild 4, Sharks 3


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

Ovechkin, Wilson each notch four points in win

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Have a night, Washington.

You managed to jump out to an early 3-0 lead in the first period after scoring three times in roughly three-and-a-half minutes. Your explosion on offense forced Joel Quenneville to abandon starting goaltender Anton Forsberg before the first intermission. And your captain increased his lead in the NHL’s goal-scoring race after a four-point night.

Oh, and you won 6-2 to push your winning streak to three games on the back of your scintillating top line, which combined for 11 points, including Tom Wilson‘s two goals and two helpers to match Ovechkin’s point total for the night.

Indeed, the Capitals played the way they wanted to on Wednesday against the Chicago Blackhawks, who have now lost five straight.

Nicklas Backstrom, who had a goal and two assists, Wilson and Alex Ovechkin, who scored his NHL leading 21st goal, tallied in a span of 3:28 in the second half of the first frame. The spurt spelled the end of Forsberg’s night. He allowed three goals on 10 shots.

Lance Bouma pulled one back for Chicago before the period was out.

But Washington was just too strong.

After Brett Connolly scored the lone goal of the second period to make it 4-1, Evgeny Kuznetsov scored his 10th to push the lead to 5-1 in the third.

Jonathan Toews scored a slick goal late in the period off a dirty backhand deke.

But Wilson scored his second of the game, this time from long-range into the empty net for a 6-2 final scoreline.

Braden Holtby turned aside 37 of 39 for his 15th win of the season and four in his past five.