Crawford conquering mental side of his game

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Crawford conquering mental side of his game

The puck whizzed by Corey Crawford and was in the back of his net barely 30 seconds into the first period on Wednesday night. It wasnt really Crawfords fault, but it was nevertheless a tough one to give up that quickly.

A few weeks ago, when Crawford was struggling, giving up that goal likely wouldve led to giving up a few more. But Crawford buckled down after that early one and never allowed the Vancouver Canucks another one in the Blackhawks 2-1 overtime victory. Its another sign that the goaltender is regaining the game that he had his rookie season.

Its not the way you want to start the game, the first shot in. But I was able to battle back, get myself into the game, Crawford said. Our defense was pretty good for most of the game and didnt give up much.

And Crawford gave up even less. He came up biggest in the third period, when the Canucks went on a late charge and threw 14 shots at him.

I thought he rebounded, I thought he responded, coach Joel Quenneville said.

Crawford said hes never lost confidence this season, but it certainly looked like it was wavering during his slumps. Crawfords ridden the goaltending merry-go-round this season: hes had the net, gotten pulled, lost the net, waited for another chance, got it back again and he repeated that sequence at least once.

But since Crawfords latest second chance when he relieved Ray Emery and claimed the shootout victory against the St. Louis Blues on March 13 hes been stellar. In his last five appearances, Crawfords allowed just five goals on 107 shots.

(My confidence) has been the same as all year, Crawford said Wednesday night. Ive made a couple adjustments to my game that we talked about before and Im seeing the puck well and thats huge.

And last night may have been a huge step, too. Crawford wasnt flustered by the quick goal, wasnt getting away from the adjustments hes made.

When Crawford took over the No. 1 goaltending job in the second half of last season, he was showing this type of confidence. He wasnt giving up much, he was dependable and he wasnt rattled easily. Crawfords starting to show that side again.

Thats one of those things where hes strong mentally, Marian Hossa said. You can tell by (Wednesday), especially against a team like Vancouver. After that (first goal) he played unbelievable. Thats huge for him and for us.

Road Ahead: Blackhawks play three home games before All-Star break

Road Ahead: Blackhawks play three home games before All-Star break

CSN's Pat Boyle and Steve Konroyd preview the Blackhawks' three upcoming games in the Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland & NW Indiana Honda Dealers.

The Blackhawks have three home games before the NHL All-Star break, which takes place in Los Angeles.

The Blackhawks have dates between the Vancouver Canucks, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Winnipeg Jets. All three opponents are out of the playoff picture, sand Steve Konroyd is looking for the Blackhawks to step up in a certain part of their game: scoring.

See what Boyle and Konroyd had to say in the video above.

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

In doing some post-season wrapping up of my Nerdy NFL Notebook as we begin turning the page to the 2017 season, part of it involves compiling where each team finished in big-picture team offensive and defensive categories: overall ranking (total yards), as well as team rushing and passing ranks on both sides of the ball.

So if the Bears wound up ranked 15th overall in total yards gained and allowed, they should've finished…oh, 8-8, right? It adds to the deception of some of the deeper issues that focus on a lack of playmakers, which tied into their inability to make plays when it matters most. In John Fox's 9-23 start, 18 of those games have been decided by six points or less. They've won just six of those games. 

Offensively, the Bears ranked higher in total offense than five playoff teams: Kansas City (20), Detroit (21), Miami (24), New York Giants (25) and Houston (29). They wound up 17th in rushing offense, better than four teams who advanced: Seattle (25), Green Bay (26), New York Giants (29) and Detroit (30). And their 14th-ranked passing offense ranked better than the Giants (17), Kansas City (19), Dallas (23), Miami (26), Houston (29).

On the other side of the ball, they'd be even better off before allowing 109 points over the final three losses. Their total defense ranked better than Detroit (18), Green Bay (22), Kansas City (24), Atlanta (25), Oakland (26) and Miami (29). After being gashed for 558 rushing yards the last three games, they fell to 27th in the NFL against the run (better than only 30th-ranked Miami). But the seventh-ranked pass defense, despite collecting a measly eight interceptions (among only 11 turnovers), was better than nine playoff teams: Miami (15), Pittsburgh (16), Kansas City (18), Detroit (19), the Giants (23), Oakland (24), Dallas (26), Atlanta (28) and Green Bay (31).

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

What do all the hollow numbers indicate? A lack of complementary, opportunistic football, playmakers on both sides of the ball, a minus-20 turnover ratio, and a lack of quality and continuity at the quarterback position — to name a few. All of those playoff teams have more impact players (or kept more of their impact players healthy) than the Bears in 2016.

While some of the numbers aren't that bad to look at, and some even raise an eyebrow, there's still a deep climb from the most significant numbers: 3-13.