Rozner: Blackhawks have reason to be desperate now
Joel Quenneville isn't ready to ponder life without Corey Crawford.
And for good reason.
Crawford's been as good as any goalie in the league and was the main reason the Hawks had been in or near a playoff spot until he left the ice.
"Our goaltending all year has given us a chance to win," Quenneville said Friday when the Hawks returned from their break. "I think this year it's probably the reason we're still in the playoff race -- what the goaltending's done -- and the (other goalies) have done a good job without (Crawford)."
That's kind of Quenneville to say, but Jeff Glass and Anton Forsberg have been mostly mediocre with a few brilliant moments here and there, and without Crawford the Blackhawks will have a tough time making the playoffs.
But the Hawks coach believes Crawford will be back this season and let's face it, the sooner the better.
The Hawks went into Saturday night knowing they gave away a game last Sunday when they failed to show up against Detroit. What was so odd about that performance was the sudden energy they had displayed in the previous 8 games as they went 5-2-1, which could have easily been 7-0-1.
The Hawks played well enough to win all but one of those games and if they can find that desire consistently, they will reach the postseason.
In the middle of that stretch was the long overdue healthy scratch of Brent Seabrook, who's been sleepy for about two years. Seabrook is the most important voice in the dressing room, and given his status it's imperative that he deliver on the ice.
That goes for old pal Duncan Keith, as well. The Hawks have relied on the veteran pair for so much over the last decade, and maybe all those minutes have finally caught up to them. But if they don't play considerably better the Hawks have no chance.
The rest of the defense has given the Hawks enough that if Seabrook and Keith do their jobs, the Hawks might just be OK.
In fact, if they sneak into the postseason by catching fire over the last few weeks of the season, they could be downright dangerous in the playoffs.
"We feel we have the group in here. Just got to put it together for a consistent stretch here and hopefully get on a run," said Patrick Kane. "If we do that, we'll probably be hot going into playoffs and hopefully good things can happen."
Kane isn't wrong about the possibility.
Three No. 8 seeds have reached the Stanley Cup Final in the salary cap era, including the Kings, who won it all in 2012, and the Preds, who took out the Hawks in the first round a year ago as the overall 16 seed.
"What matters is who's playing well at the end of the season," Nashville GM David Poile said last spring after his club reached the Stanley Cup Final. "We seemed to find our chemistry at just the right time and went into the playoffs on a roll with a consistency we had been missing.
"We thought we were better than that, but it took us a while to find it and then we found it at a good time."
Nashville was younger and faster and displayed an urgency and hunger that's often been missing for the Hawks, even during the years in which they've won it all.
Whether the Hawks have enough talent is an important part of the equation, and a lingering question, but what's also certain is that when they need to win, they are still able to win.
During the aforementioned stretch, there were some third periods in which the Hawks took over, playing as if it mattered and with a desperation that seems only to arise when it's entirely necessary.
But the point is that it's there, even if only obvious occasionally, and if the Hawks find a way into the postseason, they will be scary as a low seed with something to prove.
But they have to find a way in. And they'll need Corey Crawford to be a part of it.
• Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.