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

Brian Elliott brilliant as Blues get the first bounce and take Game 1 in overtime

Jared Clinton
Brian Elliott (Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images)

Here’s how close the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks were this season: in a five-game season series, the Blues edged out the Blackhawks 3-2 and Chicago outscored St. Louis 14-13. If there is one series that could be decided on a single bounce here or a rolling puck there, it might be the battle between the Blues and Blackhawks, and St. Louis earned the Game 1 victory by having the first bounce go in their favor.

The fortuitous moment came nine minutes into the first overtime game of the post-season, when a pass by captain David Backes ricocheted off the skate of Blackhawks defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk and squeaked through the five-hole of goaltender Corey Crawford as the Blues emerged with the 1-0 victory. And in a series that’s likely to be as tight as the one between Chicago and St. Louis, goals like Backes’ are likely to be the difference all series long.

And while goaltending was the big story in Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh, no netminder shone quite as bright as St. Louis’ Brian Elliott on the post-season’s opening night. Without Elliott, the Blues may not have had the time to wait for their bounce to come. Read more

Blackhawks’ Panarin closing on $1.725-million bonus, cap crunch could worsen in Chicago

Jared Clinton
Artemi Panarin (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The Blackhawks inked Russian scoring sensation Artemi Panarin with the hope his addition would be able to help reduce the impact of the cap crunch that was due to hit Chicago’s ability to compete. In his first season with the Blackhawks, he’s done just that. Ironically, though, Panarin’s been so good that he could end up putting the Blackhawks in exactly the kind of cap crunch Chicago was hoping to avoid.

When Panarin, 24, signed his entry-level deal, included was a performance bonus that stated if the winger finished his season in the top 10 in scoring among forwards, he would be awarded an additional $1.725 million. Even with Panarin’s success in the KHL, where he finished fifth in scoring with 26 goals and 62 points in 54 games in 2014-15, it seemed like a long shot he would become an immediate impact player in the NHL. And even if he played well, it seemed even more unlikely he would be coming in and score at a rate that would make him one of the 10 most productive forwards.

Remarkably, he’s done just that, and Panarin’s 28 goals and 74 points in 79 games ranks ninth in scoring among forwards with one more game to go. It’s been an impressive feat, but it’s one the Blackhawks weren’t banking on, financially or otherwise.

“I wouldn’t be honest if I expected him to come in here and [be top 10 in scoring in the whole league],” Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman told the team’s website. “That never happens for rookies; I don’t know the last rookie to be top 10 in scoring, but it’s been quite a while.” Read more Roundtable: Who should win the Hart Trophy?

Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane. (Getty Images)

As the regular season comes to an end this season, hockey writers will soon be tasked with submitting their award ballots.

We know the voting for the Norris will be controversial. We know the Calder will be difficult to judge because Connor McDavid, the best rookie, only played 45 games. And we pointed out yesterday that the Vezina race is wide open.

But what about the most prestigious award of all, the Hart Trophy? It looks to be a close vote, too. Our writers have picked a winner but it’s far from unanimous. Here are our picks for the Hart:

Read more

Canucks, Blackhawks being sued by fans as result of separate in-arena incidents

Jared Clinton
Rogers Arena (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks are both facing lawsuits in separate in-arena incidents that have taken place over the past two seasons.

CTV News Vancouver reported Thursday that the Canucks are being taken to court by a fan, Wayne Chi, who was struck by a puck two years ago during a game at Rogers Arena against the Anaheim Ducks on April 7, 2014. According to CTV, Chi suffered “serious injuries to his forehead, neck and back, as well as headaches, nausea and dizziness,” and he’s still battling symptoms from the injury to this day.

“He wants some kind of compensation for the fact that he did suffer an injury,” Chi’s lawyer, Manjot Hallen, told CTV. ”When you go to a hockey game, there should be an expectation that you’re not going to suffer an injury.” Read more

Coyotes’ Vermette booted after hitting Blackhawks’ Anisimov from behind

Jared Clinton
Antoine Vermette hits Artem Anisimov (via Streamable)

The Blackhawks entered Tuesday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes without the services of Andrew Shaw and Marian Hossa, and there’s a chance Chicago will be without Artem Anisimov going forward, as well.

Anisimov, 27, was forced to leave midway through the contest after he was hit from behind by Coyotes center Antoine Vermette, who at this time last year was suiting up for the Blackhawks. Following a line change, Anisimov was chasing a loose puck into the Coyotes’ zone with Vermette giving chase. Anisimov pulled up and turned back towards the boards in an attempt to shake Vermette, but the Arizona pivot got a piece of Anisimov and sent him crashing headfirst into the boards: Read more