Priority No. 1 for Hawks: Re-sign Crawford

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Priority No. 1 for Hawks: Re-sign Crawford

Wednesday, April 27, 2011Posted: 9:00 PM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

The Chicago Blackhawks brass will undoubtedly have their to-do list this offseason. No, it wont have as many drastic decisions on it as last summer, but there are still a few items to which the powers that be must attend.

So what should be the No. 1 task? Signing the No. 1 goaltender.
Corey Crawford waited for his chance and seized it this season, taking the goaltending reins and running with them. And he was there right to the end, nearly stealing the Blackhawks a Game 7 victory against the relentless Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night.

That was one of the greatest goaltending performances in clutch situations youre ever going to see, said coach Joel Quenneville after the game.

And to a man, Crawfords teammates echoed that sentiment. They believed in him, wanted to win for him and know they owe much to him.

So do his bosses.

Stan Bowman told Chris Boden a few weeks ago that he had initial talks with Crawfords agent and now that the seasons over they need to get talking again. Lets face it, folks. The Blackhawks do not want to be wandering into late Julyearly August again wondering who their No. 1 goaltender is going to be. They rolled the dice letting Antti Niemi go, but once he got the top job, Crawford showed that hes more than capable of being that guy. Yes, Niemi and the Sharks are playing on this postseason but the Finn looked shaky in several games against the Kings and got pulled in two of them.

The fact that Crawford wasnt a Calder Trophy finalist is a bit surprising. But so many awards have their list of contenders before the season even begins. Crawford wasnt a blip on the NHL radar when this past season began. Hes more than that now. During Game 7, some NHL writers tweeted that they wanted to review their Calder ballots again. Hes gotten everyones attention.

The Blackhawks will have about 8 million in cap space entering next season, give or take any moves they make. Set aside a quarter of that cash for Crawford he earned 800,000 in 2010-11 -- this season and the next. Hey, lets not get crazy here. Crawfords good, but this was his first full season in the NHL. Hell continue to grow and when he earns more money later, pay him more money later.

The Blackhawks got a second chance at goaltending this season. Crawford rewarded their patience and faith in him with steady play and crucial victories. Its time they reward him.
Toews a Selke finalist

Captain Jonathan Toews was named one of the three finalists for this seasons Frank Selke Trophy, awarded for the leagues best defensive forward. Vancouvers Ryan Kesler and Detroits Pavel Datsyuk are the other two finalists.

Toews led all Blackhawks forwards in plus-minus with his career-high plus-25. He had 95 takeaways. This is the first time Toews has been named a Selke finalist; he was third among Calder Trophy voting in 2008.

The winner will be announced during the 2011 NHL Awards in Las Vegas on June 22.

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

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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