Corey Crawford taking pressure head-on

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Corey Crawford taking pressure head-on

Corey Crawford got his first question about pressure this season not long after we knew there would actually be a season.
Pressure? Were talking about that already? the Blackhawks goaltender said to laughs. This is fun, what we do. Im excited.
That was nearly two weeks ago, when euphoria from the lockouts impending end overshadowed the pressure that every team would feel with a 48-game schedule.
Now, on the eve of the NHLs opening day, that pressure is probably resonating with many. And Crawford has to be among them.
Crawford had a second consecutive 30-victory season in 2011-12. But he knows its all about how you finish, and Crawfords finish was a tough one against the Phoenix Coyotes, who eliminated the Blackhawks in the first round last April. As the Blackhawks prepare for their season opener at the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday afternoon, Crawfords back to show he can rebound this season.
Every years big, but especially this year, said Crawford, whos entering the second year of the three-year, 8 million deal he signed in the summer of 2011. My record last year, I still won 30 games. But obviously there were times I couldve been more consistent, given this team a chance.
Indeed, despite those 30 victories, Crawford was inconsistent last season. He could have a brilliant, strong streak, then go into a tailspin where hed get yanked from games. Backup Ray Emery would take the reins, go on a streak of his own, and the never-ending goalie controversy talk would begin anew. Crawfords toughest moments came in the playoffs, when hes mostly remembered for losing two games on two soft goals.
They were rough, and Crawford doesnt need reminding.
I dont need to look at (the film of that). I remember it pretty well, Crawford said. Its something thats going to motivate me.
The Blackhawks have long said that they have confidence in Crawford, although their inquiry about Martin Brodeurs availability this summer somewhat flies in the face of that. Still, coach Joel Quenneville said Crawford has proven his mettle in the past, and that he looked better as Wednesday nights scrimmage progressed.
Whether it was getting the rust off or getting into the feel, you could see him settling in and taking charge, Quenneville said. He looked comfortable, confident.
How Quenneville even juggles his goaltending situation this season is unclear. With games coming in rapid succession, there may be more splitting duties than usual. But Crawford is the No. 1 guy and his play will largely dictate how things go.
Pressure was a bit of a punch line a few weeks ago. But its very real now, and Crawford is going to be feeling his share of it. His backers will be hoping every big save is followed by more big saves. His critics will be waiting or that first hiccup or soft goal.
Crawford knows its a proving season for him. And he said ready to handle the pressure.
Im a competitive guy, Crawford said. And Im confident right now that I can do my job.

Blackhawks assistant Kevin Dineen appreciates interview opportunities

Blackhawks assistant Kevin Dineen appreciates interview opportunities

Kevin Dineen is back with the Blackhawks but there were times this summer you wondered if another team would take him away.

The Blackhawks’ assistant coach was a major candidate for the Colorado Avalanche head coaching job, according to the Denver Post, following Patrick Roy’s surprising departure. There were probably other inquiries, too.

“It’s always nice to go through a process of talking about the way you do your business. It’s also a reflection of where you are,” said Dineen following the Blackhawks’ White-Red scrimmage on Saturday. “No. 1, you have to get permission to do that, and the Blackhawks have been great about giving me the opportunity to go out and do that. But also, when you have success, a lot of people want to get your feedback or whatever it is.”

Dineen’s name will likely come up whenever there’s a coaching vacancy. He coached the Florida Panthers from 2011-13 and coached Team Canada women’s team to a gold medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics. Dineen will get another opportunity in the NHL but for now, life is good in Chicago.

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“For me, I couldn’t be happier right here,” he said. “I have a great person and hockey mind to work with in Joel [Quenneville]. But you know, down the line, those things play their way out and we’ll see where it goes.”

Arriving soon

Patrick Kane, Ville Pokka and Michal Kempny will join the Blackhawks’ training camp on Tuesday. The three finished up round-robin World Cup of Hockey play with their respective teams on Thursday.

Dineen said there’s a chance one of the defensemen, Pokka or Kempny, play in Wednesday night’s preseason game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“They’ll get into the swing of things here on Tuesday,” Dineen said. “So that’ll give them a good rest after a long, tough September, and we expect them to hit the ice flying.”

Briefly

  • Duncan Keith will skate during one of the Blackhawks’ practices on Sunday and Monday.
     
  • Team White defeated Team Red 4-3 in Saturday’s scrimmage at the United Center. Spencer Abbott led Team White with two goals.

Alexandre Fortin taking advantage of Blackhawks tryout

Alexandre Fortin taking advantage of Blackhawks tryout

For Alexandre Fortin, the last few months have certainly been memorable.

It all started earlier this summer, when Blackhawks scout Alexandre Rouleau contacted Fortin’s agent: Fortin was invited to the team’s prospect camp. He did so well there that he was invited to the rookie tournament in Traverse City, Mich., last week. And now, the 19-year-old is here on a training-camp tryout.

Yeah, it was quite a summer. And now Fortin would like to turn it into just as memorable of an autumn.

Fortin assisted on a goal in Saturday’s scrimmage, part of the Blackhawks’ training camp festival at the United Center. The Blackhawks are going to be keeping an eye on Fortin, who’s been impressive since that July prospect camp.

“I like his willingness to learn. Those same things you talk about, immediately it translates right into the next shift,” Blackhawks assistant coach Kevin Dineen said. “He’s a smart, cerebral kid who has a nice offensive skillset he’s been able to show early. He’s off to a really good start and trying to find a way into one of our exhibition games.”

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Fortin had 19 goals in 54 games last season with Rouyn-Noranda of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Just to get a chance with the Blackhawks is motivation enough, although Fortin already had plenty. The Quebec native was passed over in two NHL drafts, much like former Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw.

“I had two years where I didn’t get drafted, and it’s always hard mentally. But some guys never get drafted and have a good hockey career,” Fortin said. “I worked a lot in the summer just to be ready to try and do the same thing I did in prospect camp.”

Fortin also got some advice from family; his uncle is former NHL goaltender Jean-Sébastien Giguère, who won a Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.

“For sure, I had a couple of meetings with him just before I came here. He had a great career. He helped me on that. I can call him every time, ask him questions,” Fortin said. “It’s good to see the veteran guys. You have to use them as an example. It’s what I want to do. I have to learn how to be a pro.”

Fortin doesn’t know what the future holds but he’s getting a chance with the Blackhawks, something he didn’t foresee when the summer began. And with that chance, anything can happen.

“You have to stay focused on your goal,” Fortin said. “You know my life has changed a few times just with what I’ve done here. We’ll see after, but I’ll keep doing what I’m doing now.”