Chicago Blackhawks' MVP so far? Has to be Crawford

Of all the polls on Twitter that I've run, no two have been closer than the ones set to expire Thursday morning.

I asked my followers to pick who they believe is the Chicago Blackhawks' MVP and the team's unsung hero to this point in the season.

Let's talk MVP first. A case can be made for any of my four candidates - Artem Anisimov, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane and Corey Crawford - as they have all at times been brilliant and at times quiet.

A late surge Wednesday evening put Crawford in the lead, and I have to say that he is the right choice.

While it's true that the Hawks' goalie hasn't been out of this world since returning from an appendectomy in December, he nevertheless sports a 23-13-3 record and a decent .917 save percentage. The tipping point for me is how Crawford played in his first 20 outings. He stole game after game after game while the Hawks were struggling to keep the puck, find an identity and create scoring opportunities.

The fact that this team was 16-6-3 on Dec. 2 is a minor miracle, with the miracle worker coming in the form of their netminder.

Now, on to the unsung hero. Whom do you vote for here among Niklas Hjalmarsson (the league leader in blocks), Ryan Hartman (the rookie with 14 goals), Richard Panik (the no-name with 16 goals) or Scott Darling (the savior while Crawford was out)?

A few followers said Hjalmarsson doesn't belong in this category because he's not an "unsung" player, but how much ink or TV time does the veteran D-man really get? I'd say he's the definition of unsung, and he'd get my vote.

Thanks to all who chimed in, and maybe we'll run these again when the season ends to determine the official winner (and who knows … by then Jonathan Toews may claw his way into the MVP discussion).

Captain my captain:

Through Tuesday's games, no player in the NHL had more points since Jan. 22 than the 20 racked up by Jonathan Toews. Before that date, Toews had 22 points in 39 games.

It was certainly a slow start for the Hawks' leader, but his coach certainly never lost faith.

"Johnny's done so many things for us," Joel Quenneville told reporters in Minnesota after the Hawks' 5-3 victory Tuesday. "He's an amazing player with competitiveness you're never going to find. What a great leader and a great captain."

Said linemate Nick Schmaltz: "He's always worked so hard, so you knew at some point the tides were going to change for him."

Slap shots:

The Blackhawks' victory Tuesday at Minnesota was their seventh straight on the road, tying a franchise record that was set in 1964. The Hawks can break the record if they win at Nashville on Saturday, March 4. … Patrick Kane has 20 goals and 40 assists after 60 games. At this time last year, he had 34 goals and 48 assists en route to a 106-point season. …

Joel Quenneville became the 12th NHL coach to record 400 victories with one team. He is 116 behind Billy Reay for most in Blackhawks history. … The Hawks kick off a four-game homestand Thursday against Arizona. After playing the Coyotes, they will take on St. Louis on Sunday, the Penguins on Wednesday and the Islanders on Friday, March 3.

He said it:

"They outplayed us today, but what wouldn't make me think that we couldn't play with them? They're a great team. But we're right there."

- Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau after his team's loss to the Hawks on Tuesday

• Follow John on Twitter @johndietzhdh

Blackhawks vs. Arizona Coyotes at United Center, 7:30 p.m. Thursday

TV: Comcast SportsNet

Radio: WGN 720-AM

The skinny: Arizona is 21-30-7 but has been hot of late, going 8-4-1 in its last 13 with impressive wins over San Jose, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and Anaheim. … Martin Hanzal is the leading goal-scorer. He has 15 on the season and 5 in the last six games. … Arizona ranks 26th on the power play and the penalty kill. … The Hawks won both previous meeting this season, improving their record over the Coyotes to 11-1-2 since the start of the 2012-13 season.

Next: St. Louis Blues at United Center, 6:30 p.m. Sunday

- John Dietz

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.