'Razor sharp' Crawford at his best for Blackhawks

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'Razor sharp' Crawford at his best for Blackhawks

SUNRISE, Fla. Corey Crawford said he saw just about all of the shots the Florida Panthers fired at him on Thursday night.

Good thing his game was as sharp as his vision.

Crawford stopped 41 of 43 shots and Patrick Kane had the game-winning shootout goal in the Blackhawks 3-2 triumph over the Panthers at BankAtlantic Center. It was another tight one for the Blackhawks, who are now 8-2-2 this season.

And coach Joel Quenneville said Crawford plenty of the accolades.

To me, at the end of the night it was a goalie win. He kept us in there, he said. He knows a lot of the guys (around the league) now and should be improving in all aspects, but he was razor-sharp tonight.

Our guys were letting me see the puck, pushing guys out of the way, Crawford said. I saw pretty much every shot tonight so that makes a difference.

Sean ODonnell, who played more than 21 minutes in Duncan Keiths absence, said that high number of shots is still unacceptable.

That team there, its an improved team. It was good Corey did see a lot but you still dont want that, he said. If its 32 or 33 (shots), thats a more reasonable number. When you get in the 40s youre playing with fire a little bit.

And it did hurt them late when Ed Jovanovski scored with just 2:04 remaining in regulation.

Crawford had to be at his best. The Blackhawks had a 2-0 lead early in the second period, thanks to Jonathan Toews and Panthers killer Marian Hossa he now has 31 goals in 48 career games against Florida. But then the Panthers kept pushing until Jovanovski tied it late.

Were up 2-0, and I dont know if we think its going to be a blowout or not. But thats a good team over there, said Kane, who beat Florida rookie goaltender Jacob Markstrom five-hole on the shootout winner.

The Blackhawks have had some close ones this season. Quenneville figured this one, against an improved Florida team, would be hard fought. Once again, Crawford came up big.

Awesome game. The best player on our team, no doubt about it, Kane said of Crawford. I dont know why we played like that tonight but Crawford stood tall. Thats why hes proven time and time again he should be in there. Good for him.

Cat killer

Hossa continues to be the Panthers worst nightmare. He now has 30 goals and 58 points in 48 career games, moving him to fourth-best all-time against Florida.

What is it about him and the Panthers?

It could be the air here, Hossa said to laughs. Whatever it is, too bad we dont play more games here.

Briefly

Keith (left hand) was out Thursday against Florida. His status for Friday nights game in Tampa Bay was still uncertain.

Quenneville would not say who would be in goal Friday against the Lightning; he said backup Ray Emery could play.

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Eight draft picks in about 3 ½ hours. It was a busy Saturday for the Blackhawks, and when general manager Stan Bowman talked that afternoon about the team’s Day 2 haul, he came prepared.

“I have my little cheat sheet,” Bowman said of the paper on which he had written the Blackhawks’ eight newest prospects.

After a few days’ worth of moves the Blackhawks focused on the future, taking nine players over two days at the NHL Draft. It was a successful weekend for the Blackhawks, who hosted the draft for the first time and built up assets, especially on the blue line. Five of the Blackhawks’ nine selections were defensemen.

“One of the things we talked about was looking at the market. There’s a high value on defensemen. We’re not necessarily looking at the draft but our team this year and over the next couple of years; those are the assets that are valuable around the league,” Bowman said. “Look at the trade Calgary made [for Travis Hamonic], defensemen are a valuable commodity. That was a priority coming in and we were able to accomplish it.”

What comes next

The Blackhawks got what they wanted at this weekend’s draft but the focus will soon shift, as free agency opens on July 1. It remains to be seen what the Blackhawks will have cap-wise come a week from now. Currently, according to CapFriendly.com, they’re $1.445 million over the $75 million cap. It’s doubtful the Blackhawks apply the long-term injured reserve tag on Marian Hossa during the offseason. It’s possible they could still trade Marcus Kruger to gain some space. Bowman said, one way or another, “there will be some movement.”

“We’ll bring some players in, I don’t know how many, what position or what level,” he said. “This is where there’s a lot of activity, the couple weeks in the middle of June until the middle of July. That’s when the most changes happen. We’ll go to work, now that we’re past this.”

Wait for it

The Blackhawks also have to decide whether or not to qualify restricted free agents Dennis Rasmussen and Tomas Jurco. Bowman said that’ll be decided by Monday.

“I’ve had discussions with both agents,” he said. “I don’t have an answer right now but we’ll have that worked out in the next day and a half.”

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson heard some of the rumors, but not to a large degree. The former Blackhawks defenseman wasn’t spending a lot of time on the internet reading up on his potential fate. He figured he’d still stay put in Chicago.

“But when my agent called me about the 10-team list, I understood it was serious. Stan [Bowman] wouldn’t ask for that unless they made up their mind already,” Hjalmarsson said via conference call on Saturday. “That’s when it hit me that I’m probably not going to put the Hawks jersey on anymore.”

Indeed, Hjalmarsson’s next jersey will be that of the Arizona Coyotes, who acquired him in exchange for defenseman Connor Murphy on Friday. Hjalmarsson’s departure marks the end of the line for another Blackhawks core player, and this one is jarring in how it will change the team’s defense.

Speaking of change, Hjalmarsson faces a lot of it himself now. Sure, there’s the obvious change for a guy who’s played his entire career in one place. It’s new surroundings and a new team, on which he knows former Blackhawks teammate Antti Raanta and fellow countryman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

But the Coyotes have dealt with a lot of upheaval lately. Goaltender Mike Smith is gone. So is veteran Shane Doan. On Thursday, head coach Dave Tippett and the Coyotes parted ways.

“They’re on a rebuild, a lot of new faces, lot of changes,” Hjalmarsson said. “It’s tough to know what to expect but I think they’re a hungry organization that wants to win like other teams. I’m looking forward to try to contribute with playing my game, just try to get the organization back in the playoffs.”

Hjalmarsson should find chemistry with Ekman-Larsson – the two were teammates in the Winter Olympics in Sochi – and Hjalmarsson will likely play a bigger role with the Coyotes. Arizona will probably look to Hjalmarsson a lot during its rebuild, given his Cup-winning history.

The first 24 hours were full of mixed emotions of Hjalmarsson. With his limited no-move clause, he was always a likely candidate to be moved from a Blackhawks team laden will full no-move clauses. He’s turning a page, but he won’t forget his time in Chicago anytime soon.

“I’m trying to always be a positive guy,” Hjalmarsson said. “I spent my whole 20s in Chicago, 10 unbelievable years. I didn’t think I’d win three Cups. Hopefully I can get one more before my career is over. I had the best time in Chicago, enjoyed every single year, playing in front of the best fans in the league. I’ve been spoiled. Now it’s time for me and my family to move on and seize the opportunity in Arizona and create some new fond memories.”