Corey Crawford was asked a simple and direct question following Saturday’s practice: How would you rate your play so far this season?
Crawford repeated the question, took a moment to craft a response, and then spoke.
“I don’t know. I’ve been feeling better and better every game,” said Crawford, who’s expected to start Sunday when the Blackhawks host the Los Angeles Kings at the United Center. “Just little details here and there that are coming a little bit easier each time I get out there. Just trying to be solid every night.”
Crawford has been more than solid the last couple of nights for the Hawks. In fact, he’s been a big reason why they’ve salvaged points in games despite mediocre performances elsewhere.
On Friday in New Jersey, Crawford made 30 saves and helped the Hawks rally from a 2-1 deficit to win 3-2 in overtime. Against Calgary on Monday, he stopped 29 shots and kept the Hawks in a game they lost 3-2 in a shootout while still grabbing a valuable point.
That sounds like a guy who’s in pretty good form, not one still trying to iron out some wrinkles and issues. But Crawford, who has a .971 save percentage at even strength compared to a less-stellar .667 when the Hawks are shorthanded, doesn’t seem like he completely likes where his game has been throughout the season.
And some of that might have to do with the World Cup.
Crawford was part of Team Canada’s championship group but played sparingly, backing up Montreal’s Carey Price. Crawford played one game in the tournament itself and only another 30 minutes during the preliminary games, perhaps dulling a little bit of his edge before the NHL season.
“It was a lot of fun but I didn’t play for a month,” Crawford said. “I played a game and a half the whole time I was there. I didn’t see a lot of work. I lost a little bit of timing, game shape a little bit. Just got to battle to get to where I was.”
Where Crawford was at the end of last season was one of the NHL’s best goaltenders and a reason many felt the Hawks could overcome the annual roster turnover to remain a contender in the Western Conference. He’s playing like that again, despite not seeing many shots in games… or even workouts during his time in the World Cup with Canada.
“It wasn’t much action in practice but I’m not making any excuses,” Crawford said. “I had a lot of work here when I got here and played a couple games. I’ve been feeling better and better as we go here.”
Joel Quenneville, who assisted Mike Babcock with Team Canada, hasn’t had the same concerns about how his goalie has played after the World Cup.
“He’s been fine. I thought he’s been fine the whole time,” Quenneville said. “I thought he’s been really good. The last couple of games were his two best. (Friday) night was one of those games where the goalie was the big factor in us getting two points.”
Notes: Gustav Forsling (upper body) practiced but Quenneville said the Hawks are pointing toward him returning Tuesday against Calgary. The rookie defenseman hasn’t played since October 24 when he was on the ice for only 6:47. Andrew Desjardins (lower body) skated before practice. He’s been on injured reserve since October 10. Marian Hossa didn’t practice but Quenneville said he’s fine.
Vinnie Hinostroza hasn’t played since October 18 against Philadelphia but Quenneville said “hopefully” he plays Sunday. “We want to get him in there,” Quenneville said.
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