Goaltender Corey Crawford is primed for Blackhawks’ stretch run
BY BEN MEYER-ABBOTT firstname.lastname@example.org March 19, 2012 9:26PM
That the Hawks earn a berth in the playoffs is the top priority for goalie Corey Crawford | Charles Cherney~AP
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Updated: April 21, 2012 8:11AM
Two games before the All-Star break, the Blackhawks sat on the top of the league and were looking big picture.
Sitting in sixth place in the Western Conference with nine games remaining, the Hawks’ focus is decidedly smaller in scope.
“We’re worried about winning hockey games,” goalie Corey Crawford said Sunday after he won his third consecutive game.
That’s exactly what the Hawks have been doing. Since the bottom seemingly fell out during their nine-game losing streak that spanned late January and early February, the Hawks have resurrected their season with a 7-1-1 streak following the trade deadline and without injured captain Jonathan Toews (concussion).
They entered Monday closer to catching the Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs than possibly being out of the playoffs for the first time in weeks.
But what the Hawks aren’t worried about is where they’re seeded in the postseason. Crawford said the team is less concerned with where they’re seated at the table as long as they’ve got an invitation to the party.
“If it comes to [overcoming Detroit and Nashville] then great,” Crawford said. “We definitely want to get on top and get maybe home-ice if we can. But we’re just worried about playing the way we can and winning hockey games.”
The Hawks are also not thinking about figuring out how to manipulate the playoff calculus to swing the sixth seed — which they occupy — and earn a first-round matchup against the winner of the Pacific Division despite the fact that whoever it is will probably have a worse record than the Hawks.
“You’ve got to be careful what you wish for. In our business [who you want to play in the playoffs] is one thing you never discuss,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “You’re looking to move ahead and feel comfortable. You look at how many teams are pushing ahead in our [conference] and everybody’s been winning lately and we’re not getting comfortable in that area at all.”
There are more than a few signs that the Hawks are raising their comfort level on the ice, especially Crawford who has stopped 55 of 58 shots for a .948 save percentage since being reinstalled in net.
With so few games remaining, Crawford isn’t letting himself get carried away.
“I’m not worried about what happened this game [against Washington] or last game,” Crawford said. “I’ll build off of it, but what I did last game’s not going to help me for the next one. I’ve got to be prepared and play hard.”
That’s something the entire team’s been doing of late and the necessity of which they always knew, but was driven home during the nine-game skid.
“We were a first place team in the NHL and then we go and lose nine straight, that’s something that you can keep in the back of your mind,” Patrick Sharp said recently. “[We] know that you can never be satisfied and you can get beat by anyone on any night and you’ve got to bring your best effort. Since that streak, we’ve won a few, lost a few but for the most part we’ve played a strong effort every night.”