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.

Blackhawks acquire Michael Latta from Kings in swap of minor leaguers

Blackhawks acquire Michael Latta from Kings in swap of minor leaguers

The Blackhawks made a minor league deal on Saturday, announcing the acquisition of forward Michael Latta from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for defenseman Cameron Schilling.

Latta, 25, has two goals and four assists in 29 games this season with the Ontario (Calif.) Reign of the American Hockey League.

He has four goals and 13 assists in 113 career games in the National Hockey League, all with the Washington Capitals from 2013-16.

Latta, who was a third-round pick (No. 72 overall) by the Nashville Predators in 2009, will report to the AHL's Rockford IceHogs. He carries a $600,000 cap hit, and is a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

Schilling ranked second among defensemen on the IceHogs with 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 40 games, and had a minus-3 rating. The 28-year-old blue liner signed a two-year contract worth $575,000 per season with the Blackhawks in July 2015.

One-goal victories are great but Blackhawks’ method has to change

One-goal victories are great but Blackhawks’ method has to change

See the Blackhawks get off to a slow start. See the Blackhawks get outshot. See the Blackhawks lean on their goaltending. See the Blackhawks find some offense in the third period. See the Blackhawks win.

This is a story the Blackhawks have written and played out plenty this season. Despite all evidence that it should work out to the contrary, the Blackhawks continue to pull out victories. But as we're well into the second half of the season, how much longer can they win with this formula? And is this, more than anything, a testament to how much they need to acquire someone (or plural) at the deadline to bolster their forward lineup?

Entering Sunday night's game against Vancouver the Blackhawks remain second in the Western Conference, two points behind Minnesota. Not surprisingly, they enter Sunday coming off another one-goal victory, a 1-0 decision over Boston on Friday night. Friday's game was cut from the same cloth as so many other one-goal games this season (please see above for the script). 

Here's how the Blackhawks are doing in one-goal games (through 48 games played this season) and how they've done in previous seasons:

Year Record
2016-17 18-7-5
2015-16 17-7-9
2014-15 22-13-6
2013-14 17-8-15
2012-13 19-3-5 (lockout yr.)
2011-12 22-6-11
2010-11 16-13-9
2009-10 23-9-8

The Blackhawks played 41 one-goal games (half of their regular-season games) in the 2014-15 season. Thirty of their 48 games this season have been one-goal games. But again, it comes down to how you're winning those games, and the Blackhawks are winning just about all of them in the same way: deal with a slow start and come back in the third period, relying on goaltending the entire time.

Being outshot the amount of times the Blackhawks have this season remains alarming. Sure, sometimes a lot of shots don't mean a lot of quality chances. But it's still better than minimal shots, and any shot can be an opportunity for a rebound, a deflection, something. From our stats guru Chris Kamka, here's a breakdown of the Blackhawks' shots per game vs. opponents, dating back to 2008-09:

Year Shots/Gm Opp. Shots/Gm Diff.
2008-09 32.7 28.6 +4.2
2009-10 34.1 25.1 +9.1
2010-11 32.2 28.7 +3.6
2011-12 31.5 28.6 +3.0
2012-13 31.1 26.2 +4.9
2013-14 33.1 27.2 +6.0
2014-15 33.9 30.2 +3.8
2015-16 30.5 30.8 -0.3
2016-17 29.3 31.1 -1.7

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

It's no surprise that the Blackhawks' differential was especially good in their Stanley Cup-winning seasons (and even 2013-14, when they went to the Western Conference Final). Those Blackhawks teams were deep, especially at forward. They weren't waiting for the perfect shooting opportunities as much as just firing. They had great four-line rotations, something they've sorely been lacking the past two seasons, which makes a difference with puck possession.

The Blackhawks will see what's available at the trade deadline. As I wrote a few days ago, there will be names out there but, considering some teams are still hoping for playoff spots, you take mentions for what they are right now. Over the next few weeks the picture will become clearer, and adding the right depth could rekindle that four-line rotation.

We've said throughout this season that the Blackhawks can't keep this up. We said it in November, and December, and now. Understand where we're coming from here; the Blackhawks can absolutely keep winning one-goal games. They've shown that in recent seasons and in the postseason, when the ability to do that is critical. But it's doubtful they can keep doing it the way they have most this season.