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Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford emphasizing focus, consistency

Corey Crawford

Corey Crawford

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Updated: March 2, 2013 7:11AM



In the sometimes-hectic, always-tense moments before a game,
every player has his own routine.

Some blast music in their headphones, some stare off into space, some do calisthenics, some go kick a soccer ball around in the hallway.

This season, Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford — who usually had been in on those soccer games — has been retreating to a corner, stretching a bit and simply thinking about the 60 minutes ahead. Thinking about the puck. Visualizing the puck. Focusing his mind on nothing but the puck.

So when he gets on the ice, he’s completely locked in on it.

‘‘It just seems like I’m keeping my eyes glued to the puck the
entire game, which kind of sounds a little funny,’’ Crawford said. ‘‘But it doesn’t matter whether the puck’s at the blue line or if I’ve got to battle through bodies to find it or the puck’s in the corner and there are guys skating around. I’m just making sure I’m always glued to it and never getting my eyes off it.’’

That focus was spawned out of a desire to avoid the poor stretches that plagued him last season and to move past the memory of the back-to-back ‘‘soft’’ overtime goals he yielded during the Hawks’ first-round loss to the Phoenix Coyotes in the playoffs last spring.

Now in his third full
season in the NHL, Crawford is older, wiser and embracing the massive expectations placed on the shoulders of a No. 1 goalie for a team with legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations.

The results have been clear in the early going. Crawford, who was named the NHL’s ‘‘second star’’ for the first week of the season, is 5-0 with a 1.78 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage. He’s as big a reason as any for the Hawks’ franchise-record 6-0 start and once again will be in the net Wednesday against the Minnesota Wild for the start of the team’s six-city, 13-day road trip.

It’s early, of course, but Crawford thus far has found the one thing he had been searching for: consistency. A common target of fan criticism (as all goalies seem to be),
nobody was harder on Crawford than himself.

‘‘I felt I played great hockey at times, but then some other times it was below-average,’’ he said. ‘‘You can’t do that. You’ve got to be good every night and give your guys a chance. This year, I’ve been able to stay pretty focused all game.’’

It has been seven years since Crawford made his Hawks
debut, so it’s easy to forget he’s really only a third-year pro. (He played in only eight games between 2005-06 and 2009-10.) So while he turned 28 last month, he’s still a ‘‘young guy’’ in his teammates’ and coaches’ eyes.

‘‘Everybody should look to get better, especially young guys like him,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘In the net, their growth curve is usually a little bit longer because they’re learning the league and the shooters and their own game, as well. I think we like the progress at these early stages, and hopefully he continues it.’’

Winger Marian Hossa said Crawford looks calm, confident and ‘‘bigger than he was before.’’ Hossa came into his own during his third full season in the league, posting
32 goals and 43 assists with the
Ottawa Senators. He said he thinks Crawford is capable of a breakout season of his own.

‘‘It’s a learning process; he’s still a young player,’’ Hossa said. ‘‘I went through that, and lots of other people went through that when they were young players. For a goalie, there’s a lot of expectations. He learned from last year, and he’s looking even stronger this year.’’



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