Can Corey Crawford rebound?

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Can Corey Crawford rebound?

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville recognized Corey Crawfords up-and-down season on Wednesday. He also recognized the goaltender, who was stellar at the end of 2010-11, could return to that.

Hes going to get more comfortable going into next year, Quenneville said. I expect him to get better as we go along here. Having confidence and showing it in him would be the right thing to do. Hes a quality kid and goaltender.

Crawford wasnt where he needed to be at some times during the postseason, and two of the overtime goals he allowed to Phoenix has some wondering if hes the goaltender to lead this Blackhawks team into 2012-13. In a season where guys like Brian Elliott and Mike Smith have excelled, Crawford took a step back.

But consider this, folks: it wasnt that long ago that Elliott and Smith were struggling themselves. Crawford had a so-so season, but he could very easily rebound with a great one again.

Earlier on Twitter today, I asked tweeps a question: If someone told you when the season started, that Smith would have this kind of year, would you have believed them? There were a lot of nos, because for the last two seasons Smith was struggling in Tampa Bay. He spent part of last season in Norfolk, the Lightnings minor-league affiliate, and when he was with the big club his goals-against average hovered around 3.00. This year with the Coyotes he had a 2.21 GAA and was a big part of them making the playoffs.

And Smith doesnt get a break in the shots-faced category. With the exception of their regular-season finale against Minnesota when he faced 24, Smith faced 32 or more shots in every game since March 18.

Elliott has also rebounded. He had a 3.19 GAA with Ottawa last season before he was traded to Colorado, where it ballooned to 3.83. With St. Louis, its 1.56.

Yes, both of those goalies are doing those with different teams than where they had their rough GAAs. Then lets look at Carey Price, whos been with the Montreal Canadiens for several seasons now: his GAA has gone from 2.83 two seasons ago to 2.77 last season to 2.35 this one.

The point? Some of this years best have had their lulls.

Crawford said on Wednesday that hell look at what he did right, try to build off it, and learn how to handle the tough times better.

One (thing) is to be able to just get over that hump and keep playing, to not let things get to you and thats probably very important for a No. 1 goaltender, Crawford said. This was a year when maybe a little bit more frustration set in than should have. I just have to make sure those down times arent as long or as bad for next season.

Even with the roller-coaster season he had and it was that, for sure Crawford still collected 30 victories for the second consecutive season. But in the sports world youre always remembered for what you did lately, so Crawfords potential moving forward is up for debate.

Crawford can rebound, just like other goaltenders already have. Its ultimately up to him to do it.

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

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USA TODAY

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

There were six teams deserving of reaching the College Football Playoff this season. But there were only four spots.

But what if there were more spots?

An expansion of the Playoff field to eight teams has seemed inevitable from the day the four-team system was announced. Four more Playoff games means oodles more TV viewers, which means oodles more dollars.

And then we wouldn't be having all these arguments, either — but that's nonsense because of course we would, trying to figure out who got snubbed from the expanded bracket.

But this season's emphasis on the conference-champion debate might kick the efforts to expand the Playoff into high gear. Just take it from NCAA president Mark Emmert.

Now, technically speaking, there are 10 FBS conferences, each of which crowns a champion at the end of every football season. Emmert is obviously referring to the Power Five conferences: the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, Pac-12 and SEC. He might want to pick his words a bit more carefully, considering he represents the other five conferences — the American, Conference USA, the MAC, the Mountain West and the Sun Belt — too, but his point remains understood.

This season has sparked a ton of controversy as the Playoff selection committee opted for the first time to include a team that did not win its conference, Ohio State, and it picked the Buckeyes over the Big Ten champs, Penn State. Plus, Big 12 champion Oklahoma was passed over in favor of non-champion Ohio State, too, actually falling behind another non-champion from the Big Ten, Michigan, in the final Playoff rankings.

With that decision brought the reasonable question of how much a conference championship should matter in getting a team into the final four and competing for a national championship.

The Playoff committee's mission is to pick the country's four best teams, and there aren't many people out there that will argue that Ohio State isn't one of the country's four best teams. But there's something to be said for winning a conference championship because if the Buckeyes can waltz into the Playoff without even playing in the Big Ten title game, why even have a conference championship game — besides, obviously, earning one more night of big-time TV money.

And so the call for an expanded Playoff bracket has reached perhaps its greatest volume in the short time the Playoff has existed. The obvious solution to Power Five conference champions continually being boxed out is to lock in five spots on the bracket for the five conference champions. Then, guarantee a spot for the highest-ranked team from the Group of Five conferences, and you're left with two "at-large" spots that this season would've gone to Ohio State and Michigan, two of the highest-profile programs in the country sure to drive TV viewership in battles against conference-champion Alabama, Clemson, Washington, Penn State and Oklahoma teams. And P.J. Fleck's undefeated Western Michigan squad takes the final slot.

That's quite the field. But if you think it would've solved all this year's problems, you're wrong. Still there would've been outcry that red-hot USC didn't make the field. The Trojans are playing so well that they could very well win the whole thing, despite their three early season losses. That debate over snubs will exist forever, no matter the size of the field, something we see play out each and every season in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Also, what a damper an expanded bracket would put on the final few weeks of the regular season. Ohio State's game against Michigan, the highest-rated game of the college football season with more than 16 million people watching, would've been effectively meaningless. No matter who won or lost, both teams would've made that eight-team field, right?

Additionally, another round of Playoff football would expand the season to 16 games for some teams. That means more physical demands on student-athletes and a season cutting deep into January, which would impact their educational and time demands.

But again, an expansion of the Playoff bracket has always seemed inevitable. There's too much money to be made, and at the same time fans seem to be all about that idea. People love the postseason for good reason, and the win-or-go-home nature of the NFL playoffs make those games the most-watched sporting events of the year.

Now the NCAA president is chiming in with hopes of an expanded field. So really isn't it just a matter of time?

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

CSN's Chris Boden and Tracey Myers have the latest on the Blackhawks in the Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda Dealers.

From an injury standpoint, it's been a tough few weeks for the Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks are down two key players in captain Jonathan Toews and goaltender Corey Crawford, and now may be without defenseman Brent Seabrook who sustained an upper-body injury in Tuesday's victory over the Arizona Coyotes.

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While the Blackhawks haven't had much luck on the injury front, their upcoming two opponents are in the same boat.

"You look at the New York Rangers, a very talented team, but this is what every team goes through every season. Your depth gets tested," Myers said.

Check out what else Boden and Myers had to say about the team's upcoming matchups in this week's Honda Road Ahead