Corey Crawford sat down at his locker stall and toweled the sweat off his face after Saturday’s morning skate, which is always about twice as long and twice as arduous for the backup goaltender.
Yes, Crawford is still the Blackhawks’ backup goalie. And yes, he’s still handling it as well as can be expected.
“We’re up in the series,” he said. “So life’s good.”
Scott Darling will make his fourth straight start tonight for the Hawks in Game 6, as they try to close out the Predators and avoid a return trip to Nashville. Crawford isn’t exactly happy about it, but he’s not kicking up a fuss about it, either.
“I was a little [ticked] off at first,” he said. “I think that’s only natural. I think that’s a good thing, too. It shows I want to be in the net. But not to a point where it’s causing any sort of negativity in the room or anything like that. I’m still positive around the guys, and nothing’s changed in this room. We’re still the group that we were before, no matter who’s in the game and who’s not.”
Crawford, who gave up nine goals in four periods over the first two games of the series, said he’s more mentally equipped to handle the benching than he was earlier in his career.
“I think so,” he said. “A little more mature and experienced. It’s still tough. I want to play. But our guys are doing well. We’re winning. Scott’s doing well. I’m just going to work hard in practice and wait for the call.”
Crawford’s professionalism has made the whole situation easier for Hawks coach Joel Quenneville.
“He’s a good guy, a good teammate, and a good pro,” Quenneville said. “The two have a good relationship. I’m sure he wants to play in the worst way, and he’s doing everything he can to prepare himself for when he gets the net.”
Quenneville’s sticking with the same players for Game 6, meaning Teuvo Teravainen and Joakim Nordstrom are still out, and Antoine Vermette and Andrew Desjardins are still in. The only tweak he made at the morning skate was putting Kris Versteeg back on the second line with Brad Richards and Patrick Kane, and putting Bryan Bickell back on the third line with Vermette and Patrick Sharp.
Quenneville used both looks during Game 5, and reserved the right to switch them around again.
“They’re both useful options with that line,” he said. “[Bickell] gives us a little bit more directness to the net, while [Versteeg] is a little bit more of a threat off the rush and with possession. They’re kind of different, but at the same time, I think they’re both useful and both good options going into today.”
Home away from home
As they have in previous springs, the Hawks are staying at a hotel even when in Chicago during the playoffs. And it’s not just so they can get more quality Mario Kart time in.
“On game day, you get your focus, your concentration, proper rest, and mentally we’re all together and we come ready to go,” Quenneville said. “In the playoffs, there’s a lot of things that can happen in the course of a day, and you want to make sure your focus is on just today’s game and prepare appropriately.”