Early playoff exit vs. Coyotes made for extra-long Blackhawks offseason
BY MARK LAZERUS Sun-Times Media January 14, 2013 9:36PM
Updated: February 16, 2013 6:29AM
Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford didn’t spend his long offseason on the couch, remote control in hand, hitting the rewind button over and over to watch the two soft overtime goals he gave up in Games 3 and 4 in the first-round playoff series last season against the Phoenix Coyotes, wondering what went wrong.
He didn’t need to.
‘‘I don’t need to look at them,’’ Crawford said Monday. ‘‘I remember them pretty well.’’
Fair or not, those two goals — one from a bad angle and one that 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 goalie.
They lasted awhile with Crawford, too, who said he had ‘‘a tough couple of sleeps’’ in the nights after those games. He bounced back with a 2-1 victory in Game 5, in which he stopped 18 of 19 shots, then gave up four goals in Game 6, a 4-0 loss that ended the Hawks’ season with a second consecutive first-round exit.
‘‘It’s kind of hard to forget about that,’’ Crawford said. ‘‘I’m just trying to use it to get better. It’s something where I kind of got in-between on plays. 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 he did in his strong rookie season, 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 that 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 there were times I could have been more consistent. That’s what I’m looking for this year, to have that consistency.’’
Of course, Crawford won’t be in goal every night. Not with 48 games in 99 days, 12 sets of back-to-back games and repeated stretches of three games in four days. Backup Ray Emery figures to get plenty of starts and even might push Crawford for the No. 1 job.
‘‘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 likely will split the back-to-backs between the goalies, but he still is going to try to ride the hot hand whenever possible, no matter the workload.
‘‘You’ve got to monitor their rest,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘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 last season at the low point of his brief NHL career, then waiting for the interminable lockout to end for a chance to 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.’’