Corey Crawford taking pressure head-on

Corey Crawford taking pressure head-on
January 18, 2013, 4:14 pm
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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.