Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford had family in town earlier this week. They were on hand Tuesday as he stymied the Ducks for his first victory on home ice in about 10 months. Considering all Crawford went through as he dealt with the aftereffects of a concussion, it was a special occasion.
Hawks captain Jonathan Toews took time to let them know how impressed he has been with Crawford, who was in net again Thursday, his fourth start of the season, for a 4-1 victory against the Rangers at the United Center.
“I’m just happy he’s healthy and he’s back to being himself and getting better every day,” Toews told them. “I never would’ve imagined him playing at the level he’s playing at after being off for around 10 months. If I was out for 10 months, I wouldn’t remember if I was right- or left-handed.”
Back to being himself? Playing at a high level again after being “off”? Some might agree those words could be applied to this Hawks team on the whole.
Only 10 games into the season, the Hawks (6-2-2) have done at least a reasonable impersonation of the teams that made nine straight trips to the playoffs until the 2017-18 squad went belly-up. Last season’s team was — for a brutal, seemingly endless stretch — as “off” as could be with Crawford out of the mix.
Crawford has won three consecutive starts, giving up a lone goal in each. His team been more contentious, too. Even without Crawford, though, the Hawks were unbeaten in regulation — albeit surrendering four goals per outing — through their first five games.
“I like our start,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “The attitude has been good. The pace of our team game is better than it was last year. The guys have enthusiasm across the board, and we’ve got some competition for ice time. Obviously, the best part to the start of the season is Crow coming back and the way he has played.”
The Hawks had wire-to-wire jump against the Rangers, with Toews lifting one above Henrik Lundqvist’s stick for a goal less than three minutes into the first period, Nick Schmaltz driving toward the net and assisting Alexandre Fortin in the second and Patrick Kane staying with a third-period rebound for his ninth goal. The last Hawk to have that many 10 games in was Jeremy Roenick, who also had nine 25 seasons ago.
Alex DeBrincat added an empty-netter for his eighth goal of the season.
“We played a good team game,” Kane said. “It was similar to that Anaheim game where we just kind of stayed patient. We didn’t really give up too much, I don’t think, and kind of controlled the whole game. Back-to-back good games for us.”
Sure, it’s only 10 games. It’s nothing to get too excited about. These aren’t the 2010, 2013 or 2015 Hawks we’re looking at.
“It’s nice to start well,” Toews said, “but it’s meaningless if you don’t sustain it, you don’t keep improving. So we know it’s just a beginning.”
A good one, though, as usual.