Crawford slips but Blackhawks win in SO, trade for Handzus - FOX 10 News | myfoxphoenix.com

Crawford slips but Hawks win in SO, trade for Handzus

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

On Monday night it appeared the Chicago Blackhawks had a comfortable two goal cushion as the Nashville Predators couldn't sustain any pressure. Nashville was completely dominated in the second period as the Hawks were in complete control.

The outcome appeared certain and the Blackhawk players must have thought the same. The Predators best player is their goalie Pekka Rinne, and he was the reason why they had any chance to come back.

In the third frame, suddenly Corey Crawford appeared to revert to his 2012 version, the one that suddenly allows super soft goals. At about the same time the rest of the Hawks seemed to mentally checkout. That's all it took, a bad 3:30 and a sure win was in jeopardy.

The Predators then controlled the momentum and managed to even the score at two. The Blackhawks won in a shootout 3-2 but Nashville captured an important point in their playoff quest.

Crawford hung tough enough to get the game to a shootout. It was then an unlikely hero Michal Rozsival put the game winner past Pekka Rinne with a slick move.

In the third period it was easier for the more desperate team to stay focused and this is starting to become a trend.

The Hawks will have to be weary of the same thing happening over the final 13 games of the regular season. This last stretch of games can be a useful learning experience as they will be a different kind of challenge.

My guess is the President's Trophy wasn't on Joel Quenneville's wish list before this abbreviated campaign began.

Coming away with the best regular season record is an accomplishment but it hasn't led to a Stanley Cup victory in most cases. Since being established in 1986, only sevens Cup winners out of 26 have gone on to win the Cup after claiming the President's Trophy.

Quenneville and his staff will be tested. The Hawks barring a rash of injuries should be rested and prepared for the playoffs to begin. What can't happen is for bad habits and poor mental preparation to set in.

A lack of concentration on Crawford's part as well as his mates was the reason the Predators got back into the game.

The Blackhawks will have a couple days off to be more prepared for a full 60 minutes. They face a similar challenge of playing a playoff bubble team in St. Louis on Thursday night. The Blues acquired defenseman Jay Bouwmeester Monday night from the Flames, and he will be in the lineup versus the Hawks.

Al's Shots

On Monday afternoon, GM Stan Bowman may have made his biggest and only trade deadline acquisition for this year by acquiring center Michal Handzus from San Jose.

It's hard to get too excited about the 36-year-old Handzus but he is a big body that can win faceoffs. He has a 55% win percentage at the dot and can be a useful penalty killer. Handzus also has been used seven times in the shootout and has converted on three attempts.

Handzus is about as slow-moving as a glacier but he is a smart player that can help the Hawks win. He fits in most likely on the fourth line but he will be able to provide some options for Quenneville as he can play wing as well.

Handzus was a healthy scratch the last six games for the Sharks and should relish the chance to return to Chicago. Handzus was here in 2006-2007 before leaving as a free agent for a big contract with the Kings. Handzus was a member of Team Slovakia and played with Marian Hosssa in the 2010 Olympics.

Dave Bolland suffered a lower body injury versus Nashville and did not play in the second or third period. Handzus may get a chance to play up in the lineup until Bolland returns.

As much as anything else this acquisition signals a few things.

One, there is an obvious lack of supply, as Handzus was still able to garner a fourth round pick for San Jose. Not bad for a player with one goal, one assist and a -9 on the season.

Another point is once again there were no rumors of this deal before the trade was transacted. It's difficult enough to make trades and information normally doesn't leak out ahead of time.

Most important is a point I have made in the past.

This trade deadline may give a clear picture of what other teams think of the prospects playing in Rockford. Maybe it would be more accurate to say how little other clubs think of many of the young Ice Hogs.

Former Blackhawk Dirk Graham is a Sharks scout and is stationed in Chicago. He has had an opportunity to closely watch Hawk prospects develop over the last few years.

Hockey logic tells me the Blackhawks would have rather dealt an Ice Hog instead of a draft pick for Handzus. Bowman has commented he feels the current group in Chicago deserves the opportunity to compete together in the playoffs. The Blackhawks are at their 50-man roster limit, so there can't be another trade unless a player is shipped off.

Realistically the Sharks should have wanted an Ice Hog who would be closer to helping them win rather than a very young fourth round selection. San Jose opted to get their original 2013 fourth round pick back. They dealt it to the Hawks last summer along with a 2013 seventh round selection in exchange for a 2012 fourth round pick.

It appears San Jose was more interested in snagging a mid-round draft pick than a young prospect who has had some seasoning in the AHL. I find that interesting and their decision also puts GM Bowman in a corner.

I also pointed out awhile ago the small handful of players in Rockford another franchise might be interested in could be considered too valuable to trade for a rental. Handzus is on an expiring contract and becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer.

So the way things look Bowman may be done, unless he can drum up some interest for an Ice Hog or two. It would be a stretch, but Bowman still has his number one draft pick to dangle plus his original fourth round selection.

Under the circumstances Bowman would probably want to keep those picks unless it was a trade he couldn't refuse, but he would still have to include a player. As it is the Hawks have only two draft picks in the first four rounds. The picks that were traded away equate to Johnny Oduya and Handzus.

The 50-man roster is full, the best draft picks are all but gone.

So Bowman may like his team and that's good thing, because at this point he doesn't have much choice.

Follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia

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