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.

White Sox rookie Charlie Tilson out at least 10 days with foot injury

White Sox rookie Charlie Tilson out at least 10 days with foot injury

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The leading candidate to be the team’s starting center fielder, Charlie Tilson has been temporarily shut down after he suffered a stress reaction in his right foot.

Tilson suffered the injury while running in a workout on Friday and had an MRI performed on Saturday. A team official said Tilson’s injury isn’t as severe as a fracture but he’d be sidelined for 10 days, at which point he’d be re-evaluated. Acquired last July, the White Sox rookie was already rehabbing from a torn left hamstring that ended his 2016 season early.

The White Sox acquired the New Trier High School product from the St. Louis Cardinals last July in exchange for left-hander Zach Duke. Tilson was immediately called up as the White Sox intended to try him out in center field the rest of the season. But Tilson suffered a season-ending injury in his major league debut while tracking down a fly ball and had surgery several days later.

Tilson had made good progress in his rehab and was a full participant in a hitter’s camp at Camelback Ranch last month. Earlier this week, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Tilson was a top candidate to take over as the club’s starting center fielder if he was healthy.

Connor McDavid believes Blackhawks prospect Alex DeBrincat will succeed in NHL: 'He's a special player'

Connor McDavid believes Blackhawks prospect Alex DeBrincat will succeed in NHL: 'He's a special player'

Blackhawks prospect Alex DeBrincat is putting up video-game numbers in the Ontario Hockey League.

He ranks first among all players with 49 goals and 104 points, and has done so in only 50 games. That's an average of more than two points per game.

DeBrincat, the Blackhawks' second-round draft pick (No. 39 overall) in 2015 thanks to the Andrew Shaw trade, became the Erie Otters' all-time leading goal scorer earlier this year and on Saturday, he tied Brad Boyes for second on the team's all-time points list with 309. The only player he's chasing now is teammate Dylan Strome, who has 329 and counting.

Connor McDavid, who ranks fourth in Otters history with 285 points, was there for DeBrincat's rookie season when he scored 51 goals and 50 assists. The 20-year-old Oilers captain very much still pays attention to the Otters, and isn't surprised by the heightened success of his former teammate.

"He’s having another amazing season," McDavid said. "No surprise there."

It was easy to suggest DeBrincat's numbers were inflated because he benefited from having a player like McDavid centering his line. But McDavid insists that wasn't the case.

"Honestly, we helped each other," McDavid said. "It was not a one-way street by any means. He finds a way to score goals. My year they were saying, 'Oh, he was just playing with me.' Then the other year, he’s playing with (Strome). He’s playing with Stromer again. To score 50 three seasons in a row is absolutely incredible no matter who you’re playing with or what you’re doing. Absolute credit to him."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The numbers back it up, too.

DeBrincat's points per game average has increased in each of the last three seasons: 1.53, 1.68 and 2.08, a significant jump from his second to third season. It's especially impressive when you factor in that he's scored only eight of his 49 goals on the power play this year after combining for 34 goals on the man advantage in his first two. 

Initially, McDavid was a little skeptical when informed that newly-signed winger DeBrincat, who's now listed as 5-7, 170 pounds, would be his new linemate. It didn't take long for that to change.

"He kind of just came out of nowhere," McDavid said. "I remember us signing (him) and looking, and it said he was 5-2, 140 pounds, whatever. The GM at the time, Sherry Bassin, said 'I found you a new winger.' I’m like, ‘That guy is going to play with me?’ Sure enough, he comes in and we kind of have that chemistry right away.

"He knows where the net is. He finds a way to score basically every night. He’s got a great shot. He’s one of the feistiest guys I’ve ever played with. It’s really remarkable about what he’s been able to do."

Size is surely to be the biggest concern for DeBrincat at the NHL level, but players such as Cam Atkinson (5-7), Johnny Gaudreau (5-8) and Mats Zuccarello (5-7) are proving that you can be among the league's best despite being undersized. And the game is evolving into more of an up-tempo style where teams built on speed is becoming the new norm.

DeBrincat's willingness to stick his nose into dirty areas combined with his offensively-gifted ability is a big reason why McDavid believes his former linemate will succeed at the highest level.

"I think well," McDavid said when asked how DeBrincat's game will translate into the NHL. "He’s just got such a drive and such a nose for the net that I don’t think he’s going to be stopped. He takes on guys much bigger. I don’t really know how he does it.

"Especially when he was a rookie and I was playing with him, he’s going into scrums against guys that are 6-5, and you’re on the ice thinking, ‘How the hell am I going to help you?’ He definitely picks his fights. He’s a special person and special player."