Corey Crawford joined a few other teammates for an optional practice at Johnny’s IceHouse West, working to rekindle his game that fared so well through most of the regular season.
“The only thing I can do now is be ready in case I go back in,” said Crawford, who will back up Scott Darling when the Blackhawks host the Nashville Predators in Game 4 of their first-round series. “Other than that, encourage the guys, stay positive and make sure the body language is good. Everything’s positive around here. There’s a nice feel around the room, nothing negative.”
Crawford is taking the situation well outwardly – he could be handling it the same inwardly, too, for all we know. Of course he’s frustrated; no competitor at this level would be happy to be taking a backseat. But Crawford said the team’s continued playoff success outweighs what he thinks of coach Joel Quenneville’s decision to go with Darling.
“We’re up 2-1 in the series; nothing else matters,” he said. “It’s the wins. Nothing else counts.”
Crawford got off to a so-so start in Game 1 and was pulled after the first period for Darling. On that night, the choice was as much about the team’s shoddy performance in front of Crawford as it was the goaltender. But things went from mediocre to bad in Game 2, when Crawford allowed all of the goals in the team’s 6-2 loss to the Predators.
“Obviously there’s lots of room for improvement,” Crawford said with a little laugh. “I said after Game 2 I started feeling better in that game, then they got some chances late that just squeaked through. Some stuff, obviously, [that] I made saves throughout the years, those ones went by. But I’m starting to see the puck better.
“I didn’t get much time in Game 1,” Crawford continued. “I was off a little bit – good first shot and the other was a tip, another misplay and then I’m out of the game and have to regroup, try to come back in Game 2 quick. It got away from me. Now it’s trying to see the puck and get that feeling back. I’m working hard to get that edge I had before.”
For now, however, it looks like it’s Darling’s job to lose. Darling stopped another 35 shots on Sunday afternoon in the Blackhawks’ 4-2 victory over Nashville. Darling said Crawford has been fully supportive throughout this season, including now.
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“I mean, he’s been awesome to me. He’s been like a mentor to me, teaching me tons,” Darling said. “He has tons of experience here and I’ve been very limited. I can’t thank him enough for the life and goalie lessons he’s shared with me.”
Crawford said, despite frustration in his own game, he’s happy for Darling.
“He’s gone through a lot to get here and he’s been playing awesome. How can you not feel good for him?” Crawford said. “I have to encourage him, keep pushing him to be his best.”
Crawford has gone through plenty of ups and downs in his NHL career. Right now, he’s working on what he can control, and waiting for when he gets the chance again.
“I’ve gone through a lot of things, especially on our playoff run when we won,” he said. “There’s a lot you have to go through mentally as a goalie, a starter in this league. It’s just another thing that will only make me stronger going forward.”