Blackhawks

Crawford's new pregame approach working

987979.png

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 Talk Podcast: After 20 games, do we know the identity of this Blackhawks team?

sharpkanetoews.jpg
USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: After 20 games, do we know the identity of this Blackhawks team?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast Tracey Myers and Jamal Mayers join Pat Boyle to discuss the teams wins over the Rangers and Penguins.  Have they figured some things out and what is the identity of this team after 20 games?

Jammer weighs in on Artem Anisimov’s big week and are there enough Hawks committed to net front presence?  They also discuss the surging play of the blue liners and did the Hawks fail to send a message to Evgeni Malkin, after he kneed Corey Crawford in the head?

Blackhawks’ much-maligned power play is now clicking

patricksharp.png
USA TODAY

Blackhawks’ much-maligned power play is now clicking

It’s an annual rite of passage if you cover or are a fan of the Blackhawks: you question the power play, because there always seems to be an issue with the power play. You wonder why every season, given the talent on this team. And again this fall the power play has sputtered.

But a funny thing happened at the end of the weekend. The Blackhawks’ power play started to look good, started to generate chances and started to score. In 10 games prior to the Blackhawks’ Nov. 12 game against New Jersey they had just three power-play goals in 40 opportunities. In their last three games (vs. the Devils, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins), they’ve tallied five goals on 13 opportunities.

So what’s been working?

“I’ll probably give you the same answer as when it wasn’t working: pucks to the net, guys in front,” Patrick Sharp said. “We have the shot mentality more so than just moving it around and getting it set up. You look at the goals we’ve scored, it’s nothing overly complicated. It’s just getting the puck to the net. Just stay with it.”

Sounds simple enough, but the stay-with-it part has probably been the toughest segment of the equation. When the Blackhawks slumped they really slumped, and their lack of confidence on the power play was as evident as their lack of scoring on it. Yes, stressing over it can have its affect; and when the Blackhawks got those two power-play goals against the Devils it seemed to be a release.

“You get one, that weight gets lifted off your chest a little bit, you can play a little loser and maybe not grip your stick as tight as when things weren’t going well,” Cody Franson said. “When you’re confident out there you’re moving the puck cleanly, things happen a little quicker for you and give you those better looks at good chances. When you’re not that confident sometimes you’re not executing as well and things were moving slower and you’re not generating too much. Confidence definitely plays a big part in it.”

So back to what’s working. The Blackhawks started becoming more active on the power play, cutting down on the passes and increasing the shots. They’ve been there for rebounds. They started feeding off the success, be it with the power play as a unit or with individual performances. Artem Anisimov has returned to being a force at the net again; of his five goals in his last three games, two are power-play goals.

“A couple of broken plays and sometimes you get some breaks. You win a faceoff and make a quick little play after a couple of great opportunities on the prior whistle there that didn’t go in. I just think shots at the net and traffic and off that, sometimes they go in,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Our entries have always been alright this year, so we’re getting zone time and let’s get some simpler looks and sometimes they go in. I think gaining confidence there, it seems like we’re having the puck more and longer and sustaining some offense off it.”

The Blackhawks have struggled more than they’ve succeeded on the power play the last few seasons. But as their overall scoring has increased again, so has their power-play production. Good timing.

“People tend to say the power play can keep you in games and the penalty kill can win you games. Our penalty kill’s been great and has given us chances in a lot of games. [Corey Crawford’s] been playing pretty well,” Franson said. “And when our power play can give us success we find ourselves in better situations to try and win games.”