Crawford getting stronger as postseason rolls on

Crawford getting stronger as postseason rolls on

Saturday, April 23, 2011
Posted: 2:02 p.m. Updated: 8:22 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

Corey Crawford said he felt better than he had in a while entering Game 5, the one in which he earned his first career postseason shutout. Two days later, he couldnt really put a finger on why.

Sometimes its just streaks you go on, he said. I think since the game has started players have tried to find out why they feel good one day and not the next. Ill just try to carry this into the next game.

If he does, the Blackhawks should be in good shape.

Crawford was strong in his 36-stop performance in Vancouver on Thursday night, as his game has continued to improve through this postseason. Crawford was especially tough in the third period, when the Canucks outshot the Blackhawks 15-6.

We didnt give him much help in the third period but he was good and made a lot of saves. He pretty much earned that shutout himself, Patrick Kane said. You have to be proud the way hes progressed, not just in the playoffs but the whole year. Hes won some games for us and been the backbone for our team.

For Crawford, the playoffs have just been business as usual. Except that this business is win or go home. Still, Crawfords kept his typical calm demeanor.

Im just kind of going with the experience of this season and learning from that and carrying it into the playoffs. Its the same game, just a little more intense, he said.

It didnt hurt that the Blackhawks staked Crawford to big early leads. Crawford also gave credit to the Blackhawks 20 blocked shots in that game. But Crawford hasnt even let the Canucks get close to getting back into either of their last two victories. Its been more composure for a goaltender that rarely shows if hes rattled.

He carries that quiet confidence all the time, even at points of the season when weve had rough patches, Ryan Johnson said. He carries himself in a way thats way beyond his years. For him to do that, it resonates throughout the whole team.

Crawfords work has even gotten notice from the other side, as Crawford and Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo have worked together in the past and have plenty in common. Both are Montreal natives, both have the same agent and both have worked with longtime goaltending coach Francois Allaire.

Hes a great guy, hes very laid back and a very honest, good goaltender, Luongo said. He doesnt make mistakes; hes very textbook and has good position on the pucks. Ive worked with him a long time in Montreal and I was surprised he didnt make the NHL sooner than that.

While Crawfords won the last two games, Luongos been pulled in them. But Crawford said its more what the Blackhawks have done, not a problem with Luongos game.

Its not like were taking wristers from the goal line and theyre going in. Were getting traffic in front of him, were making it tough on him, Crawford said. Obviously its tough on him. Hes the greatest guy in the world and after two games everybodys on him.

Crawford will make his 33rd consecutive start in Game 6 on Sunday, although he said hed never know its been that many if he wasnt reminded of it. Hes kept himself fresh and is reveling in the playoff atmosphere. Hes not feeling like the new guy anymore. Not playing like it, either.

Hes made a lot of big timely saves that the fellas need, Troy Brouwer said. When youre looking for a save he provides it.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Blackhawks fire assistant coach Mike Kitchen

Blackhawks fire assistant coach Mike Kitchen

When Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman addressed the media on Saturday, he said that there would be change. That started on Monday when assistant coach Mike Kitchen was fired.

The move came five days after the Blackhawks were swept out of the first round by the Nashville Predators. Bowman said in a statement that, “we believe this decision is best for our organization moving forward. Mike had an impact on two different Stanley Cup championship teams during his tenure in Chicago. We appreciate his many contributions and wish he and his family success in the future.”

Kitchen has been a member of coach Joel Quenneville’s staff since 2010. The two go back to their playing days, however, when they were teammates with the Colorado Rockies and also the New Jersey Devils. Kitchen was Quenneville’s assistant when the two were with the St. Louis Blues and when Quenneville was fired as Blues coach midway through the 2003-04 season, Kitchen was promoted to head coach.

As part of the Blackhawks’ staff Kitchen’s focus on special teams, mainly the penalty kill. That kill finished the regular season 24th overall in the league, although that has to come with an asterisk. The penalty kill started the 2016-17 season so poorly that it was never going to get too far out of the basement. It did get stronger as the season wore on, and it was fourth overall during the Blackhawks’ short stay in the playoffs.

Which Blackhawks will be participating in 2017 IIHF World Championships?

Which Blackhawks will be participating in 2017 IIHF World Championships?

The Blackhawks' season ended much sooner than expected after being swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs by the Nashville Predators.

But for some players, their hockey season may not be finished yet.

The IIHF World Championships begin May 5, and an early postseason exit gives several Blackhawks an opportunity to play in the tournament.

With the National Hockey League saying it will not participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics, players may be more inclined to join given the uncertainty of when they'll be able to represent their countries again — if ever, for some.

Here's an update on which Blackhawks players could be participating:

— Patrick Kane said Saturday he's taking the weekend to mull over Team USA's offer, and will make a final decision in the next "day or two."

— Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews each declined their invites from Team Canada, electing to use a lengthy offseason to recharge and focus on training for the 2017-18 NHL season.

— Corey Crawford and Nick Schmaltz said they have not been contacted by their respective countries, but both said they would consider going if they are.

— Artemi Panarin has reportedly already accepted Team Russia's offer to play.

— Niklas Hjalmarsson said he's "thinking about" Team Sweden's offer after the NHL's decision not to attend the 2018 Winter Olympics. "Who knows when I'll ever get a chance to play for my country again, so that might be factor," he said.

— Marcus Kruger said he's talking with Team Sweden officials, and has expressed interest in going.

— Marian Hossa said he informed Team Slovakia that he will not be playing: "Let the young guys play."

— Richard Panik will not be participating either, saying he doesn't want to risk injury as he seeks a new contract.