Crawford focused on quick improvement

September, 16, 2011
9/16/11
11:37
AM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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[+] EnlargeCorey Crawford
Rob Grabowski/US PresswireCorey Crawford doesn't have to worry about beating out a veteran for a starter's role this season.
For the first time since being drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks back in 2003, Corey Crawford enters training camp ensconced as the starter in goal.

He's not complaining.

"Yeah, there's a different feeling," Crawford said Friday. "It's nice to know you have a three-year deal coming into camp. But I'm still focused to earn that ice time and show the new guys. Even then you have to show you're the guy and to gain confidence from them."

Crawford went 33-18-6 in his rookie year but missed out on being a finalist for rookie of the year. His game shined in last season's first-round, seven-game playoff loss to the Vancouver Canucks. By all accounts, his team didn't lose because of him.

"Even one game [in the playoffs] is a huge deal," Crawford said. "To play that whole series means a lot going forward. I'm going to take that and use it. Obviously, it's not the result I wanted but I'll use it for this upcoming season."

Crawford is known as a very technically sound goaltender who probably needs to play more instinctive at times. His work over the summer should help in that department.

"I have to be a little quicker," he said. "I think strength was there last year, I want to improve everything but quickness was one of the things we talked about. I'm just going to improve my game. My puck handling was good in the minors but I just felt I didn't need to do it much here. Our defensive core is good with the pucks. Quickness was No. 1 on the list."

For once Crawford isn't battling another player for a roster spot to back-up another veteran goaltender as he did with Nikolai Khabibulin, Cristobal Huet and Marty Turco. This time he'll watch Ray Emery and rookie Alexander Salak fight it out to play behind him.

"I played against Emery a little," Crawford said. "I watched him when I was younger in Ottawa and Philadelphia. He's proven himself before. Salak? I haven't seen him play at all but heard a lot of things. Two great guys off the ice. I got to meet them, talk with them a bit. They're just two guys who can help me push myself and that's a good thing to have, guys pushing you for a spot."

Jesse Rogers | email

Chicago Cubs beat reporter
Jesse joined ESPN Chicago in September 2009 and covers the Chicago Cubs for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN Radio 1000.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Patrick Sharp
PTS GOALS AST +/-
78 34 44 13
OTHER LEADERS
GoalsP. Sharp 34
AssistsD. Keith 55
+/-M. Hossa 28
GAAC. Crawford 2.26