Hawks goalie Corey Crawford ready to atone
BY MARK LAZERUS Twitter: @MarkLazerus January 14, 2013 5:06PM
Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford wipes his face after the Hawks lost 4-0 to the Coyotes. (Nam Y. huh/AP Photo)
Updated: January 14, 2013 5:36PM
Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford didn’t spend his long, long offseason firmly entrenched on the couch, remote control in hand, hitting the rewind button over and over again, watching the two soft overtime goals he gave up in Games 3 and 4 against Phoenix in last season’s first-round playoff series, wondering what went wrong.
He didn’t need to.
“I don’t need to look at them,” he said Monday. “I remember them pretty well.”
Fair or not, those two goals — one from a bad angle, and one that somehow slipped through Crawford’s pads, both scored by Coyotes winger Mikkel Boedker — are the lasting images from Crawford’s second season as the Hawks’ No. 1 goaltender.
They lasted a while with Crawford, too, who said he had “a tough couple of sleeps” in the nights following the games. He bounced back in Game 5 with a 2-1 victory in which he stopped 18 of 19 shots, but gave up four goals in the decisive Game 6, a 4-0 loss that ended the Hawks’ season with a second-straight first-round exit.
“It’s kind of hard to forget about that,” Crawford said. “I’m just trying trying to use it to get better. It’s something where I kind of got in-between on plays, and I just have to make sure when I’m doing something, it’s 100 percent. When you get in-between on something, that’s when those kind of goals are going to go in. I’ve just got to be confident in what I’m doing and stick with it.”
Those two goals tainted a solid, if unspectacular, season for Crawford. He started 55 games, just like in his strong rookie campaign, but his numbers were down a bit. His save percentage dropped from .917 to .903, and his goals-against average rose from 2.30 to 2.72. Coach Joel Quenneville said he’s happy with where Crawford is, and that a slight drop-off after a stellar rookie season can be expected.
But Crawford bristled at the idea he had a “sophomore slump.”
“Look at my record last year — still won 30 games,” Crawford said. “But obviously, there were times I could have been more consistent. That’s what I’m looking for this year, to have that consistency, where I’m giving this team a chance every night.”
Of course, Crawford won’t be between the pipes every night. Not with 48 games in 99 days, 12 back-to-back sets, and repeated stretches of three games in four days. Backup Ray Emery figures to get plenty of starts, and might even push rawford for the top spot.
“You’ve just got to get yourself ready for whenever the team needs you in there,” Emery said. “Any goalie wants to play as much as he can, but you’ve just got to be ready when called upon.”
Quenneville said he’ll likely split the back-to-backs between the two goalies, but that he’s still going to try to ride the hot hand whenever possible, no matter the workload.
“If they’re playing well — you’ve got to monitor their rest — but the next game, you’re playing to win that game, and if you feel they’re ready to go, I don’t think you want to get in the way of that,”
Ready to go? Yeah, Crawford’s ready to go. After ending the last season at the low point of his brief NHL career, then waiting for the interminable lockout to end for a chance to finally redeem himself, perhaps no player is champing at the bit quite like Crawford is this week.
“It’s something that’s going to motivate me,” he said. “I’m a competitive guy, I’m confident right now, and I want to do the job.”