Corey Crawfords stay at his locker wasnt an extended one last night.The Chicago Blackhawks goaltender had sat in his stall for a while after his teammates had gone in their previous two games. He was thinking about the two goals hed given up, the two goals that had been game-winners for the Phoenix Coyotes.But on Saturday night, all he was thinking about was taking his Game 5 performance and repeating it for Game 6.Crawford rebounded from two tough endings to allow just one shot in Game 5 on Saturday, as the Blackhawks beat the Coyotes 2-1 in overtime and staved off elimination in the Western Conference quarterfinals. It wasnt about stopping a lot of shots for Crawford he faced just 19 on the night. It was about stopping the very stoppable shots, and Crawford did that.I felt good, Crawford said. I was just trying to carry over the feelings of the last couple of games, the things I did right. Our guys played a really solid game, I didnt have to do too much; just a couple key saves here or there.But in Game 5 the only shot that stopped him was a Gilbert Brule effort, created on a 3-on-1 Phoenix breakaway. Everything else was his.Crawford came under fire after Games 3 and 4, as he allowed soft goals in both Coyotes victories. Coach Joel Quenneville said he and his staff would talk about which goaltender would start Game 5 or at least he gave the impression hey may have been weighing his options there. He stuck with Crawford, and it paid off.Rock solid, Quenneville said. He was good, very good.And Crawford is going to have to be very good again on Monday night. And, the Blackhawks hope, Wednesday night.The Blackhawks, and Crawford, have reached the point where theres no margin for error. Crawford has had his up-and-down moments during the regular- and postseason; another down one in this series and the Blackhawks will be dealing with first-round elimination again.Crawford needs to play like he did in Games 1, 2 and 5. He said hes taken the good things hes done this postseason and focused on those. That needs to be his mantra again on Monday.
When considering the Blackhawks’ penalty kill, you can look at their 3-3-1 record in two ways: their record is mediocre because of it, or they’re still getting points despite it.
No matter how you look at it, however, the penalty kill’s malaise has to stop.
In seven games this season, the Blackhawks’ penalty kill has allowed 14 goals on 26 opportunities. Through their first seven games last season the Blackhawks were shorthanded 18 times, allowing three goals.
Looking at seasons overall, the Blackhawks allowed 46 power-play goals over 82 games last season. The kill allowed a scant 35 goals during the 2014-15 season and 46 goals in 2013-14.
Yes, the Blackhawks know it’s a big problem and they’ve talked about it and worked on it. So far, they just haven’t seen the results on it. Some have come off faceoffs. Some have come from long distance. Some have come off rebounds. It doesn’t seem to matter what they do: goals get scored. The Blackhawks will keep going back to the drawing board until they restore that penalty kill to its normal success rate.
“We talk a lot about the way we’re forcing it up ice, how we’re forcing it in the neutral zone, forcing entries, how we’re moving together as units, the personnel changes,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’ve tried a number of different looks on the back end, as pairs up front. We’re trying to find something that clicks. we haven’t gotten that confidence yet where we’re comfortable with just about any pairs right now. hopefully we can get that stabilized.
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“We know the importance of that influencing the outcome of games and sometimes it can win a game for us. But it’s been a real negative so far,” Quenneville added. “We got through three in a row there. hopefully that’s the start of something positive.”
The Blackhawks killed off the final three penalties they took against the Calgary Flames on Monday night. It was a shot of confidence for a group that needed it, and now they have to repeat that more often.
“We just kept our feet moving. We were working. Our shifts were 20 to 30 seconds tops,” Jonathan Toews said. “When you go that short you have the energy to outwork the power play and make up for being down one man. Yeah, I mean, I think that’s the key right there, and I think our systems fall into place when we’re all moving and we’re all skating the right way.”
Artem Anisimov said those three successful kills were “intense.”
“We were skating. We didn’t give so much time to set up in our zone,” Ansimov said. “It was like, always clear. We cleared the puck 200 feet and it was successful.”
The Blackhawks have been talking “baby steps” regarding their penalty kill the past few games. Killing three in a row off on Monday night could be one, but it means nothing if they allow another one in their next game. The penalty kill is broken. The Blackhawks will keep trying to fix it.
Jonathan Toews isn't doing himself any favors of trying to drop the Captain Serious nickname that has stuck with him since 2008.
The Blackhawks captain and his girlfriend dressed up for a Halloween party on Tuesday night, and their costumes were on point:
We wonder how long it took to wash that paint off their face.