Crawford's struggles open door for Emery

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Crawford's struggles open door for Emery

Updated: 4:42 p.m.

Corey Crawford is in uncharted NHL territory: hes slumping. Its something thats unknown to him at this level, as he excelled in every situation during his rookie season and even through the first month of this one.

So while he works on getting out of his slump, the Blackhawks will turn to their backup on Thursday night.

Ray Emery will get the start when the Blackhawks face the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Thursday. It will be the second start in the last three games for Emery, who also had relief duty when Crawford was pulled against Phoenix on Tuesday night.

For Emery, whos sporting a 4-1-2 mark, its a chance to continue the solid work hes done during the regular season. He won in St. Louis on Saturday, and outside of that mess in Edmonton, which was a team-wide debacle, hes been steady.

For Crawford, its a chance to take a step back, assess whats happening and work on it.

He can work on some things (with goaltending coach Stephane Waite) and get that confidence in the net, coach Joel Quenneville said. He can work on (things), whether its handling the puck, rebound control or fighting through traffic. Stephs going to be working with him the next few days to get that game back where it needs to be.

Crawford was stellar the first month of this season. He had some good games in November, but thats also when the inconsistencies started to show. Sometimes it was defensive mistakes that he couldnt make up for the Blackhawks defensive issues have been there plenty this season. But other times Crawford was allowing bad goals. It obviously hasnt set well with the competitive Crawford.

Its not very fun; its frustrating. Every second game seems to be a rough one for me, said Crawford. Im just trying to work hard, battle through it. Thats the only way I see getting out of it.

Quenneville isnt calling this a controversy. This is the first time Crawfords struggled in the NHL so its hardly that. But the Blackhawks are nevertheless going to address Crawfords ups and downs, and let him work his way through them.

Since hes been here, hes had the net and everythings been going great. So something like this (slump) gets your attention, Quenneville said. Thats why him and Steph work well. Its only a matter of time until he recaptures that confidence.

Crawford will work on it. He wont, however, mentally dwell on it.

I dont like losing, I dont like being pulled. But the worst thing I could do is start thinking about it too much and put everything on my shoulders, he said. Ill just keep doing what Ive been doing.

Will lopsided loss shake Blackhawks from their slumber?

Will lopsided loss shake Blackhawks from their slumber?

The Blackhawks have talked the past several games now about how they need to play better, how they need to get back to their 60-minute game. But even when you tell yourself you have to improve the message doesn't always translate into immediate action. That's especially true if, despite so-so play, you're still managing victories or still eking out a point.

Sometimes, you need a jolt to realize you have to get better. Well, that thud the Blackhawks made in South Florida ought to get their attention. 

The Blackhawks' 7-0 loss to the Florida Panthers on Saturday night, that "ugly, ugly game," as coach Joel Quenneville, is the latest in what's been a mediocre stretch for the team. They've been leaning on their goaltending again (please see Minnesota, Montreal, Ottawa and Dallas games). Or they've been leaning on their ability to wake up in the third period after sleepwalking through the first two. Sixty-minute games and four-line rotations, such a big part of the Blackhawks' success through February and early March, have been absent.

Call it the Blackhawks' mid-March malaise.

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It hasn't been more painful because the Blackhawks have still found ways to get points. Or at least they did until Saturday night, when two "yapping" penalties – Quenneville's (accurate) description of Ryan Hartman and Marcus Kruger's unsportsmanlike calls – started the Blackhawks' demise against the Panthers. Players told the traveling media following the game that this was a wake-up call. It ought to be.

Granted, the Blackhawks' late-season issues aren't as bad as some of their fellow Western Conference teams. The Minnesota Wild are 3-10-1 in March. The San Jose Sharks have lost six in a row. This also isn't the first time the Blackhawks have gone through this late-season mediocrity.

Entering the 2015 postseason they struggled to score goals and lost four in a row (five goals in those four games). It turned out alright. Still, best to avoid bad habits.

Perhaps the Blackhawks are in a bit of a swoon because, really, there's not much for which to play in these final few games. They don't care if they win the Presidents' Trophy (and they probably won't). They're currently in first place by seven points following the Wild's 3-2 overtime loss to Detroit on Sunday. Whether the Blackhawks finish first or second, they'll start this postseason at home. 

So is this panic-inducing? No. Is it a concern? Certainly. The Blackhawks can't start thinking they'll automatically flip the switch as soon as the postseason begins.

The Blackhawks want to get their four-line rotation going again. Artem Anisimov returning in the next week or two will certainly help that. They want to get their overall game going again. The Blackhawks have been telling themselves what needs to be done for a few games now. Maybe they needed a wake-up call. On Saturday, they got it. 

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks give up season-high seven goals

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks give up season-high seven goals

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