Crawford's new pregame approach working

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Crawford's new pregame approach working

Corey Crawford wanted to switch some pregame habits.
The Blackhawks goaltender thought it was time to make some changes, and hes applied those here in the early season.
Before I was playing a little bit of soccer, now Im just going into my corner and stretching, doing a lot more before a game, Crawford said. After our meetings, whether it be in the gym or something, Ill relax and stretch out and get ready that way mentally by myself.
It must be working, because Crawfords focus on the ice has been there in the early going.
After a rough sophomore stint, Crawford is finding early redemption. Hes 2-0 in his first two starts with a 2.00 goals-against average. No, he still doesnt have that shutout that has eluded Blackhawks goaltenders since the 2010-11 season. But hes been strong in his outings, especially down the stretch of the Blackhawks 3-2 victory over St. Louis on Tuesday night.
Hes a great goaltender. Hes played well since he came in here for us and we have all the confidence in the world in him, Patrick Kane said. You look at the two goals (the Blues scored): one was pretty much a breakaway, another was a backdoor rebound. Theres not much you could do about those. And they had a chance in the slot to make it 3-3. Hes playing great to start and Im sure itll continue.
Coach Joel Quenneville liked Crawford down the stretch.
When the game was on the line he was big. He was quick, he moved and anticipated well and made a couple of timely, big saves, Quenneville said. Hes had a nice approach. We talked about it over the summer: that second year some of the top goalies who had strong rookie years (struggled). Expectations are there and players know them better. Im not saying he was't at the same level but it was a challenging year. He wants to play, wants to get to that top level again.
Crawford shook off his training-camp rust in a scrimmage against Rockford last week. Hes been on top of things since, first against the Stanley Cup champion Kings and then last night. Crawford said he felt good and confident about his game before the season began, and he reiterated that on Tuesday.
Stretching and spending a little time solo were subtle pregame changes. But they may just be working.
I feel really good, Crawford said. I said last game that I was really focused and I was able to carry that into todays game. My preparations been better this year. And its just the little things.

Blackhawks blow three-goal lead, fall in OT at Lightning

Blackhawks blow three-goal lead, fall in OT at Lightning

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Yanni Gourde had a breakaway goal 4:25 into overtime and the Tampa Bay Lightning rallied from a three-goal deficit to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 on Monday night.

Victor Hedman set up the winner with his third assist of the game.

Tampa Bay, which trails Boston by a point for the second Eastern Conference wild card, also got two goals from Jonathan Drouin. Ondrej Palat and Anton Stralman also scored, and Andrei Vasilevskiy, who got pulled 14 minutes into the first after allowing three goals on eight shots, returned to the start the second and finished with 25 saves.

Artemi Panarin, Patrick Kane, Tomas Jurco and Richard Panik scored for the Western Conference-leading Blackhawks, who were coming off a 7-0 loss Saturday night at Florida. Scott Darling stopped 25 shots.

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back vs. Lightning tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back vs. Lightning tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

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Five Things to Watch:

1. How will Blackhawks respond to worst loss of season?

The Blackhawks suffered their worst loss of the season on Saturday in a 7-0 rout at the hands of the Panthers. It was the first time they've lost by at least seven goals since 2011 when Edmonton beat them 9-2 and the first time they lost 7-0 since 2001 against San Jose; the Blackhawks lost to Washington 6-0 earlier this year. But by no means was Saturday their worst effort of the season. A questionable interference penalty by Marcus Kruger led to a two-man advantage, which Florida cashed in on with a goal and another shortly after, and it opened up the floodgates. Expect a big bounce-back against a hungry Lightning team.

2. Lightning fighting for playoff lives.

Every game is a must-win for the Lightning with eight games remaining on their schedule. They're three points out of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with a game in hand on the Bruins, who currently occupy that spot, but still have to jump the Islanders. The Lightning didn't do themselves any favors by losing three straight in regulation last week, but they've won two in a row and tonight will be the first of a four-game homestand for them.

3. Keep the puck off Nikita Kucherov's stick.

There isn't a hotter player in the NHL right now than Kucherov, who has seven goals and two assists in his last four games. He's had two hat tricks in the past month, and he ranks sixth in the league with 78 points and second in goals with 38. You know how lethal Artemi Panarin's slapshot is from the left faceoff circle? That's Kucherov, but on the right side.

4. Staying disciplined.

The Blackhawks are the second-least penalized team in the league, but they acted out of character Saturday by racking up 30 penalty minutes. They were also slapped with a pair of unsportsmanlike penalties, which isn't something you normally see from Joel Quenneville's teams. Ryan Hartman, who along with Marcus Kruger was penalized for "yapping" at the officials, accepted responsibility for it after the game, and insisted it "won't happen again."

5. Special teams to play key factor?

On the flip side, the Lightning are the second-most penalized team, averaging just over 11 penalty minutes per game. Power plays will be key for the Blackhawks in an effort to keep Tampa Bay's collection of talented young goal scorers off the ice. The Lightning also boast a top-five power play unit with a 22 percent success rate. Both teams would be better served staying out of the box and making this a 5-on-5 battle.

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