Blackhawks breakdown: Corey Crawford

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Blackhawks breakdown: Corey Crawford

In his second full season of NHL duty, Corey Crawford played in 57 games -- starting 55 of them. His numbers suffered in every category as he went 30-17-7 with a 2.72 goals-against average and .903 save percentage and zero shutouts. He played every minute of the playoffs, compiling a 2.58 GAA and .912 save percentage, but giving up a pair of weak overtime goals in Games 3 and 4 that put the Blackhawks in a 3-1 series hole they couldn't get out of.

Boden's take: There is no hotter "hot button" on the Blackhawks this off-eason. He was the RFA who needed to be re-signed after his impressive rookie season and playoff series vs. Vancouver. He's the guy many of the same analysts feel a need to replace a year later after being pulled from a whopping seven starts. He showed flashes of that rookie form two or three times, but raised all these questions due to classic "Sophomore Slump-itis" with an assist from some ragged defensive coverage too often around him. He needed to come up with a big save and cover those teammates backs a bit more often.

Myers' take: Crawford entered last season with a new contract and the Blackhawks hopes that he would pick up right where he left off from Game 7 in Vancouver. Well, that didnt happen. Crawford started the season off well, making up for a defense that had its shaky moments right out of the gate. But then Crawford faltered and allowed too many soft goals. He said his confidence never wavered, but anyone watching him certainly had to question that. Crawford didnt really steal any games last season, nor did he record a shutout. It was a tough sophomore season for him, and had some questioning if he was the best No. 1 choice moving forward.

2012-13 Expectations

Boden: Here's the deal for all the fans wanting Crawford moved, "Pronto!": The Hawks aren't looking to deal him unless he's part of some multi-player blockbuster deal that not only brings a goalie back to replace him, but helps fill other needs. This league is filled with very good goalies who have had poor seasons, many of them sophomore seasons. The Hawks need -- and will find out if -- Crawford can grow out of it like the Carey Price, Pekka Rinne and Jimmy Howard (just to name a few) rather than to turn into Steve Mason. This season will determine that. They're not getting killed by the deal they signed him to (two more years totaling 5.3 million), and it will be a great investment if he bounces back. Corey's makeup is such that he'll do everything possible to assure that happens, but we won't know until the games resume. If he doesn't, Ray Emery had better be ready.

Myers: Can Crawford recapture his rookie year game again? He has to. The Blackhawks need that guy, the one who played more than 30 games down the regular- and postseason stretch, and was brilliant at it. I still say he does rebound, and the defense getting better in front of him will help that. But regardless, Crawford has to be able to stand on his head more. He needs some shutouts. He needs to repeat that freshman year, or the Blackhawks may be shopping for a new goaltender.

How do you feel about this evaluation? As always, be sure to chime in with your thoughts by commenting below and check out highlights of Crawford above.
Up next: Brandon Bollig

Former Blackhawks D-man Trevor Daley reflects on bittersweet postseason with Penguins

Former Blackhawks D-man Trevor Daley reflects on bittersweet postseason with Penguins

Trevor Daley’s hearing the same chatter in the Pittsburgh Penguins this season as he did with the Blackhawks last fall.

“It feels a lot like when I started last year with Chicago, where a lot of guys were speaking the same thing: ‘We want to try to do it again,’” Daley said on Wednesday evening. “I felt I was in that situation with the same feeling with the guys around me, so it was an exciting time.”

Well, there is one difference this time around. When Daley was traded to the Blackhawks in the summer of 2015 he didn’t know that feeling of winning a Stanley Cup. Now, he does. After the Blackhawks traded Daley to Pittsburgh he became a key part of the Penguins’ run to their Cup triumph.

Daley fit in immediately with the Penguins because they all found common ground: he wasn’t the only one going through changes at the time. Daley was traded to Pittsburgh two days after the team named Mike Sullivan its new head coach.

“The way they were going with a new coach coming in, I think everyone was happy to have a fresh start, including myself. I felt I was in the same situation they were,” Daley said. “It all worked out obviously in the long run. But a lot for my success had to do with being on the same page as everyone else.”

Daley suffered a fractured ankle in late May, missing the rest of the postseason. But after the Penguins won the Cup in Game 6 against the San Jose Sharks, Daley, on the ice in full uniform and skates, was the first to get the Cup from captain Sidney Crosby.

“When you get to hoist that thing,” Daley said. “There’s nothing better than that.”

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The postseason was bittersweet for Daley, as his mother became ill with cancer as the playoffs began. She got to see Daley hoist the Cup on June 13. Sadly, she died on June 21.

“Pittsburgh was great to me. I got to go home in between series. When I had time off I got to see her and when I got hurt I got to spend more time with her. It did make it bittersweet,” Daley said. “Before she passed she would always say, ‘Why are you here? I want you to be playing.’ But under the circumstances, at least I got to say I got to spend a little more time with her.”

The Penguins are waiting for a few players, including Crosby, to return from the World Cup. Who knows how the season unfolds but much like last fall, Daley is part of the let’s-try-to-repeat talk.

“We’re excited for those guys to be able to have the opportunity they have [at World Cup]. We get to watch the best player in the world doing what he does, knowing he’s coming back to us,” Daley said of Crosby. “We’ve been enjoying it; we’ve been staying in touch with them while they’re gone. Most of them are back now. Those guys are going to be ready to go. They’ve already played some big games, so it’ll be good.”

Bears have run hurry-up offense, Brian Hoyer style

Bears have run hurry-up offense, Brian Hoyer style

Brian Hoyer spent Wednesday’s practice as the presumptive No. 1 quarterback, sources said, and with Jay Cutler limited due to his thumb injury, the Bears began prep for the Detroit Lions next Sunday in Soldier Field with Hoyer getting more used to the offense that he has only sparingly run since training camp.

Some of Hoyer’s teammates spent Wednesday’s practice getting a little more used to him.

A veteran of 27 NFL starts, Hoyer doesn’t do things the way Cutler does them. He doesn’t throw as hard. He doesn’t throw as far. And he runs a sort-of hurry-up offense compared to Cutler.

“Hoyer has a real good sense of urgency to him,” said left tackle Charles Leno Jr. “He’s more fast paced. He likes to quicken up things, whether it’s the cadence, the flow – he just has a real natural sense of urgency about himself.”

This involves more than just a feeling. The Bears ARE faster under Hoyer, based on one very unofficial measure, because game situations differ even though the Bears ultimately lost all three games.

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Based on snaps and time played, the Bears have run 2.2 plays per minute with Cutler. They have run 2.6 per minute, approaching 20 percent more, under “urgent” Hoyer.

The play rate, however, is not entirely on the quarterback. Like all teams, the Bears build tempos into their system, and defenses also dictate some of how the Bears elect to work.

Still, “Jay is more laid back, more relaxed, even-keeled,” Leno said, smiling. “But that’s just Hoyer, more sense of urgency."