Corey Crawford said his confidence never waivered. His game, however, did.
For part of this season Crawford wasnt looking like the strong, dependable goaltender that led the Blackhawks to the playoffs last season and earned him a three-year deal during the summer. He looked shaky, uncertain. Not confident.
But as the season wound down a switch flipped. The reliable, solid and yes, confident Crawford re-emerged. And now, hes looking very much like he did last season.
When Crawford starts Game 1 against the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday, hell be going in riding a good streak. Since coming in to relieve Ray Emery on March 13, when he stopped all 18 shots he saw en route to a shootout victory over St. Louis Crawford is 8-1-2. Crawford never did get that elusive shutout this season, but he did get his game back to a better form by seasons end.
I like the way hes finished a big stretch of the season, the important part going into the playoffs, coach Joel Quenneville said. Hes got some momentum in his game and he was instrumental in us getting into the playoffs.
Crawford loves this time of year, as evidence by his work last spring against the Vancouver Canucks. He was tremendous, and just about goaltended the Blackhawks into the second round. He made some adjustments to his game late this season, and theyve paid off.
My timings on and I feel good, he said. Im picking the right spots to be aggressive and when to sit back a little bit. It just seems like my game is coming together.
And it couldnt happen at a better time.
I think hes really stepped up his game a few levels, Patrick Sharp. There were a lot of times last year (going into the playoffs) when we were answering questions about him, if he could do it. He was our best player in that Vancouver series. Hes gearing up to play well and we know he will.
Crawford said he never lost confidence. Nevertheless, it looks like hes regained his game.
He was huge in our success last year, just getting to the playoffs. He won a lot of games for us; Joel likes to call them goalie wins, and he did a lot of that for us last year, Patrick Kane said. Sometimes you go through lulls in the season; you can say that about me, too. But the most important time of the year is right now, and hes performing at his best right now. So thats nice to see.