Why the Blackhawks playing Kane and Toews on same line is desperate – and brilliant

Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Chicago Blackhawks are one seriously wounded animal right now, trailing their Central Division semifinal to the St. Louis Blues 3-1 and venturing to enemy territory facing elimination after dropping consecutive games at the United Center. Not the result we’re accustomed to from the Madhouse on Madison, especially against a Blues team known for choking in its current era of regular season dominance.

Andrew Shaw will not play tonight in Game 5, justifiably suspended for his homophobic slur in Game 4, creating a hole in coach Joel Quenneville’s lineup. Shaw, a versatile agitating forward who can play center or the wing, the first line or the fourth, has been as effective as any Chicago player in the series so far. His four points in four games tie Duncan Keith for the team lead. Shaw is also one of only three Hawks forwards – three! – with a goal in the series. So his presence will be missed.

Quenneville is painted into a corner right now, and he’s decided to declare a Code Red: he’s busting out the big guns and reuniting superstars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to form a superline. The Game 5 line deployment, as posted by crackerjack beat reporter Mark Lazerus:

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Rumor Roundup: In search for defense, Oilers should target Dennis Wideman

Lyle Richardson
Dennis Wideman (Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli is expected to acquire some much-needed depth for his D-corps this summer. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman suggests Chiarelli should cast his eye south toward his club’s rival in Calgary.

Appearing on Sportsnet 960 last Friday, Friedman wonders if the Flames and blueliner Dennis Wideman might be ready to part ways. He feels Wideman could get an opportunity for a fresh start with the Oilers.

Friedman points out Chiarelli acquired and later traded Wideman during his tenure as Boston Bruins GM. While the two clubs rarely make deals, he points out the Flames acquired Ladislav Smid from the Oilers a couple of years ago.

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Yes, Andrew Shaw should be suspended for his embarrassing actions (Updated)

Ryan Kennedy
Andrew Shaw (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

We’ve all seen the video by now, right? We all know that Chicago’s Andrew Shaw bowled over Jay Bouwmeester for no reason, cost his team a chance to come back in a crucial game and then blew up at the refs. He flipped them off with both middle fingers and it really looks like he swore and directed a homophobic slur towards someone more than once – even tapping his stick on the penalty box glass to make sure the object of his derision was paying attention.

So what should happen to Andrew Shaw?

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Video appears to show Blackhawks’ Shaw directing homophobic slur at officials

Jared Clinton
Andrew Shaw (Brian Kersey/Getty Images)

Blackhawks winger Andrew Shaw could find himself facing supplemental discipline after he was caught using what appears to be a homophobic slur during Tuesday’s broadcast of Game 4 between Chicago and the St. Louis Blues.

Shaw’s penalty, and the subsequent vitriol towards the officiating crew, came with 2:04 remaining in the third period. After the Blackhawks had drawn within one with little more than five minutes remaining, Shaw took an incredibly ill-advised interference minor and left Chicago down a man with time winding down. As he skated to the penalty box, Shaw made a middle-finger gesture to the referees, yelled about the penalty call and then appeared to shout a homophobic slur at the crew. It was caught by the Blues broadcast. Read more

Blues push past adversity to put Blackhawks on the brink of elimination

Alexander Steen (Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s wouldn’t exactly be worthy of being called a miracle, but if the Chicago Blackhawks are going to get out of the first round — let alone defend their championship — they’re going to have to claw all the way back from a 3-1 series deficit.

For the second consecutive game, the St. Louis Blues made the most of their opportunities, including 2 power play goals on 4 chances, and managed to take both games from the Blackhawks at the Madhouse on Madison. The difference-maker for the Blues came when Alexander Steen pressured Blackhawks defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk into making an ill-advised cross-ice saucer pass, which Steen deftly knocked out of the air before streaking in alone and firing the puck past Chicago netminder Corey Crawford.

And while the win is obviously the most important thing about Game 4 for the Blues, the significance of taking the 3-1 series lead in a game that had St. Louis facing adversity early can’t be overlooked, especially for a team that has tried and failed to advance to the second round for three consecutive seasons. Read more

Corey Crawford paid his dues, and now he’s getting the respect he deserves

Ken Campbell
Corey Crawford (Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

At some point, this season or next, Dustin Tokarski is going to skate out and take his spot in the crease for his 256th game in hockey’s minor leagues. When it happens, there’s a good chance Corey Crawford won’t notice. Why would he? The guy is a big shot now, with two Stanley Cups under his belt and probably more coming. He’s pulling down $6.5 million large, with another $23 million coming over the next four years. He has full control of the net and the unwavering confidence of the franchise that has set the gold standard for all others in the NHL. Why should he care about some journeyman backup making a start in the minors on Tuesday night in Bakersfield or Elmira or playing against something called the Greenville Swamp Rabbits?

Here’s why. Because when Tokarski finally plays that game – he was at 249 and the third goalie for the San Diego Gulls in the AHL – Crawford will finally be able to say that somebody in this freakin’ goalie business has played more games in the minors than he has. Of the 86 goalies who had appeared in the NHL this season as of mid-March, not a single one had played as many games in minor pro backwaters as Crawford had. For five years, spanning 255 games, Crawford played in the minors, first in Norfolk, Va., then three years in Rockford, Ill., a place whose claim to fame is Home of the Sock Monkey. Read more

Blackhawks even series as coach’s challenge makes first major impact on post-season

Jonathan Toews congratulates Corey Crawford (Dilip Vishwanat/ Getty Images)

Talk about a game of inches.

For the first time in the playoffs, coach’s challenge has potentially altered the outcome of a game and it came at the expense of the St. Louis Blues. In the third period of a tie game, Blues center Jori Lehtera charged hard into the Blackhawks zone, and seconds later Chicago was digging the puck out of their net after Vladimir Tarasenko netted what appeared to be his second goal of the contest. As Scottrade Center erupted and fans smacked hands, the Blackhawks coaching staff was huddling up and challenging the play.

Review revealed Lehtera, with both skates raised above the ice as the puck crossed the blueline, entered the zone inches offside. The challenge was successful, the goal was called back and the score was back level. And hockey wouldn’t be hockey if Tarasenko didn’t take a penalty two minutes later, and, as fate would have it, Blackhawks’ Andrew Shaw scored on that very power play to turn the tide in Chicago’s favor. Read more