NHL.com's weekly Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game today and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.
MONTREAL -- Eddie Olczyk is working the Eastern Conference Final with a keen eye on what is happening out West because of his ties to the Chicago Blackhawks and the obvious need to follow what's happening across the NHL as NBC's lead color commentator.
The Blackhawks have a 1-0 lead on the Los Angeles Kings in the best-of-7 Western Conference Final. Game 2 is Wednesday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS).
Here are Five (actually six) Questions with … Eddie Olczyk:
What has been the key to another run of success so far for the Blackhawks, and is it any different from the previous successful runs that eventually led to Stanley Cup championships?
"Well it is, and you could ask the players this, and I've had this conversation with some of the players, Duncan Keith in particular. They haven't gotten to that next level yet consistently. In the two runs that they've won the Cup, I didn't see as much up and down as I saw in the first two rounds against St. Louis and Minnesota. What I mean by that is not staying at that consistent level for longer periods of time. So, I think that just speaks to the system, I think it speaks to Corey Crawford. In [Game 1 on Sunday] it happened again. The second period wasn't great; they give up 17 shots where they're a team that doesn't give up more than 22 or 23 in a game. In order to win a Stanley Cup, you've gotta take your game to another level, and they've done that, but it's about keeping it there. Have we seen it yet? I think at times, yeah, but they've found ways to win games other ways."
In saying all that, what does it tell you about the Blackhawks that they haven't been at their best consistently yet but they beat the Blues in six, the Wild in six, and now they have a 1-0 lead on the Kings in the conference final?
"It speaks to the depth of their team for sure. [Corey] Crawford winning Games 3 and 6 in the St. Louis series, winning Game 6 in the Minnesota series, you need that. You need your goaltender to win you some games, and I think he's done that. But it speaks to the leadership and to the depth on their team. I don't think you can go in any other direction. You need some luck, but I'm a believer that you've gotta make your own luck."
Do you think Corey Crawford should now be considered an elite goalie in the NHL?
"He has to be. To question it, to me, is silly. The guy wins the Cup, he's considered for the Olympic team, if I'm not mistaken, he has a very good regular season, and his team is in the conference final again. So, yeah, absolutely."
What is it about him that you have learned by being around him over the past couple of years, because from my perspective it just seems like nothing seems to bother Crawford at all?
"I think he's a real even-keeled guy. Not a lot of emotion, from what we see. Just in talking with him, I think he's really even-keel and really understands what his job is. He makes the routine save as close to 100 percent of the time as he can. He makes those difficult ones whenever possible. I think it is a mindset, I really do. Let's not forget, Corey Crawford has only been a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL for four years, and one of those years was the lockout year, so it's a half-year really. He's played five years in the minors. I think a lot of people think Corey Crawford has been in the NHL for seven or eight years. That's not the case. For a guy to be able to do what he's been able to do in a short period of time, I think it speaks to the team and it speaks to Corey and how he's been able to handle everything."
Why is Bryan Bickell so effective in the playoffs but inconsistent in the regular season?
"Because the game changes in the playoffs. The rink gets smaller, and for a guy like Bryan Bickell, that's beneficial. He takes his game to another level. I think his bungee cord is a lot longer in the playoffs than it is in the regular season, there's no doubt. He gives the Blackhawks something they don't otherwise have in their top nine. Take Andrew Shaw out of it because he's a small guy who plays big. He's [5-foot-9] but he plays like he's 6-2 or 6-3. Bickell is the only guy in their top nine who is big and plays that way. You need that in the playoffs. There is something to be said for that. He gives them something that they don't have in their top nine. He also gets power-play time in the playoffs, which he doesn't get a lot of in the regular season. I think there's something to that psychologically too. He's a playoff performer. His role expands in the playoffs, and he just has the sense to be right in the middle of everything."
BONUS: Do you think the Blackhawks can up their level in Game 2 to take a 2-0 series lead?
"Watching on TV is way different than when I can assess it in person, but they were at a high level in Game 1 for part of the game, and then all of a sudden L.A. dictated the terms. Look at the missed chances. Was it Tyler Toffoli who had a breakaway and hit the post? L.A. had its chances, and this was a team that played its second game in a matter of 36 hours with travel like they did. L.A. is a deep team, a big team, and a couple of days off here will certainly benefit L.A. But I think if you ask the Blackhawks, and just talking to those guys in the second round, they feel they can and need to go to another level at some point here. I think at times [Sunday] you certainly saw it, but again there were times they were on their heels. But L.A. is a pretty good team. You don't get to the conference final three years in a row by accident."