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Readers' Q&A: Chris Kuc's Blackhawks mailbag

Wouldn’t pulling Corey Crawford after the Kings’ third goal in the first period Monday night have sent a message to players? I would have if I were Coach Q.  --Tom B., New Lenox

Game 4 of the Western Conference finals is no time to be sending messages. The players realize what’s at stake and the motivation is there as they seek to become the first team to capture back-to-back Stanley Cups since the 1997 and ’98 Red Wings. However, if the Hawks had entered the third period down 4-0, it’s possible Joel Quenneville would have inserted Antti Raanta in goal to allow Crawford some extra rest and avoid more damage to his psyche. When Brandon Saad made it a three-goal deficit late in the second, Quenneville stuck with Crawford with the hopes the Hawks could stage a rally. At times like those, you need your starter in goal.

Is Marcus Kruger underappreciated by Blackhawks fans? --Connor M., Naperville

I can’t speak for all the fans, but I can tell you Kruger is appreciated by his teammates and coach. The center has gutted through injuries to provide stability in the middle of the fourth line and on occasion has moved up in a more offensive role on the second and third lines. The veteran is a key component on the penalty kill, which before stumbling in recent weeks was stellar all season.

What are your thoughts on Nick Leddy? I notice that he is mistake-prone and still not the player my Minnesotan friends hyped him up to be. Should he be playing in the playoffs? --Randy, Porter, Ind.

I anticipated Leddy taking a bigger step in his development as an NHL defenseman than he did this season. His positioning and decision-making — things that usually only come from experience — show room for improvement. That said, at 22, he’s still young and learning his trade. Leddy’s speed and instincts make him an effective puck-mover on the third D pairing and a viable defenseman in the playoffs, but another level is attainable that will help him in the defensive zone and also contribute more offensively.

Why do beat reporters bother going to games when they can just watch on TV and ask players questions via text? --Dave, Bolingbrook

Much of reporting and writing is based on observations not seen on TV. Also, watching from the couch does not give one a true sense of the atmosphere and energy (or lack of it) at the venue. And then there are the interactions between a reporter and player. The tone of an answer is important in accurately quoting a player and describing his or her emotions — that would be lost without looking someone in the eye when interviewing them. It’s also important for reporters to be in the dressing room the day after writing something critical of a player or coach and be available to explain the thinking behind stories that appear in the newspaper and online — or to just the subjects of their stories get any bad feelings off their chest.

ckuc@tribune.com

Twitter @ChrisKuc

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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