Crawford sticking with what's working

January, 29, 2013
1/29/13
8:01
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford admits he’s felt pretty good protecting the net so far this season.

But despite that positive feeling, Crawford isn’t allowing himself to get too confident. He knows how quickly a streak can change for a goalie. He’s experienced the ups and downs like anyone at his position.

While the unpredictable bounce of a puck or a whistle-happy officiating crew can lead to the demise of a goaltender on any given night, Crawford does have a plan going forward to best maintain his own consistency. He’s going to treat every game the same.

[+] EnlargeCorey Crawford
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY SportsCorey Crawford has won all five of his starts for the Blackhawks this season.
When he starts against the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday, Crawford’s plan is to step out onto the ice with the same mentality as he has throughout his five-game winning streak.

“I feel good right now,” said Crawford after Tuesday’s practice at Johnny’s IceHouse West. “I think either way whether I played five (games), whatever how many, still got to approach it the same way and make sure I have the same preparation.

“That’s the way I’ve approached it so far. I’m not going to change that for the rest of the year."

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has noticed some changes in his top goalie this season. He believed Crawford’s focus is less shakable now.

“I think he’s always been pretty confident,” Quenneville said. “He might have stretches where he’s not happy about a goal he lets in, might be thinking about what’s happened rather than looking forward and looking at the next shot, next save. He seems to be focused. He seems to be excited about where he’s at, where we’re at.”

Crawford is leading the NHL with a 5-0-0 record, is sixth with a 1.78 goals-against average and is tied for sixth with a .933 save percentage.

Crawford can’t be truly evaluated over five games, but early indications are he’s progressed since last season. He went 30-17-7 and had a 2.72 goals-against average and .903 save percentage in the 2011-12 season.

Blackhawks teammate Viktor Stalberg thinks Crawford has already shown he’s better than last season.

“He’s phenomenal,” Stalberg said. “I thought he was good last year, too. It’s just that he struggled at times. Sometimes if you have a goalie not making the save every time you need it, I think the defense gets a little worried. It seems the defense and Corey got great confidence in each other this year and seem to be playing well together. It’s good to see him really bouncing back this year.”

Crawford has been reliable throughout all five games, but he’s especially emerged late in the past few games. He saved all 10 shots he faced in the third period and overtime of Sunday’s 2-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings. He also blanked the Dallas Stars in the third period and overtime of last week’s 3-2 win. He allowed a third-period goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday, but he was unbeatable in the final minutes and the Blackhawks held on for a 3-2 victory.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has enjoyed seeing Crawford come through in the clutch.

“I like how he’s taking charge of the net at critical times of the game,” Quenneville said. “He’s stepped up and made some big saves, looks big in the net.”
Scott Powers is a general reporter for ESPNChicago.com. He is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Patrick Kane
PTS GOALS AST +/-
36 16 20 9
OTHER LEADERS
GoalsP. Kane 16
AssistsP. Kane 20
+/-K. Versteeg 15
GAAC. Crawford 2.00