Blackhawks

Crawford's rise from AHL call-up to No. 1 goalie

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Crawford's rise from AHL call-up to No. 1 goalie

Monday, April 4, 2011Posted: 3:21 p.m. Updated: 6:05 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com
Corey Crawford had his epiphany in New York City.

It didnt matter that the Chicago Blackhawks goaltender wasnt the starting guy for that Nov. 1 game. After so much work, so many auditions with the Blackhawks in trying to secure a goalie spot, the Montreal, Quebec native had nevertheless arrived.

I was at Madison Square Garden, I had made it in the NHL and I was there, Crawford remembered. I was finally part of the team.

Hes more than that now. In one season, Crawford has gone from a guy finally getting on the roster to being the Blackhawks No. 1 goaltender, and his true NHL arrival may come Tuesday night when he makes his 24th consecutive start against his hometown Montreal Canadiens.

Crawfords work has earned the Blackhawks plenty of victories this season. Its also earning him strong consideration for the Calder Trophy for NHL rookie honors.

Hes probably the best surprise that the Hawks have had this year. This kid knows how to win, said former Blackhawks coach Denis Savard. Certainly (goaltender) is the position thats the most important in hockey and hes earned chance to get (Calder) votes, no doubt.

The numbers are strong: Crawford has 31 victories, including an eight-game winning streak in late Februaryearly March, four shutouts, a .2.27 goals-against average (seventh in the NHL) and a .919 save percentage (16th).

Hes done well in all situations and all types of games and when we need big saves, he's there for us, Troy Brouwer said. I know goalie progression is slower than other positions sometimes, but its good to see hes finally earned his way here.

Coach Joel Quenneville said Crawfords also handled the workload well.

The toughest part for goalies when youre playing consecutive games and youre basically going all the time is trying to find a mental break and prepare for each game in the right fashion. Fatigue can sometimes be the challenging part, especially in your first go-around, he said. Hes doing everything right. Hes keeping himself fresh going into games.

Fresh, yes, but Crawford may also be feeling some butterflies when he takes the ice at the Bell Centre on Tuesday. Hes the hometown boy who made good, and he told Blackhawks TV recently that returning will be exciting.

Itll be pretty special, he said. I was a huge Canadiens fan growing up and Ive been there a lot of times to watch games. I dont have the words to mention how special it is to be going back and playing a game there.

Crawford was like a lot of kids growing up in the Montreal area: he considered CanadiensAvalanche goaltending legend Patrick Roy a hockey god. He switched to goaltender after watching the Roy during his youth, although his reasons for adoring Roy had little to do with specifics of Roys game.

I think I was too young to realize that. I liked his pads, Crawford said with a laugh. And he was really good.

Obviously Crawford didnt ride the Roy-like rocket to goaltending stardom Roy won the Canadiens starting job and his first Stanley Cup at the age of 20. His path was a little longer, and he put in plenty of work along the way.

Crawfords 6-foot-2 height was an asset in taking up the net but other aspects needed work. Puck handling was one, and his former Rockford coaches said its evident that Crawford has improved on that over the years. Savard saw another issue when he watched Crawford in prospect camp not long after he was drafted.

I remember him making the first save all the time but hed struggle with the rebounds, Savard said. They were there. If theres one thing hes improved on, its in that department. He smothers the puck pretty good right now, not many rebounds.

Crawford thought he finally cracked the lineup entering the 2009-10 season. But after a tight competition between he and Antti Niemi, the Blackhawks went with the latter. An understandably frustrated Crawford headed back to Rockford.

It sucked, he said. It was a pretty crappy feeling once again to be shot down and have to go back to the minors and do that again: the rough travel, not the greatest spots to be playing hockey sometimes, the small crowds. But I just threw away all those thoughts and kept working hard and hoped for another chance.

Crawford buried his emotions once he hit the ice for Rockford. Crawford won 24 games and sported a .909 save percentage and 2.67 goals-against average for the IceHogs last season.

Blackhawks developmental goaltending coach Wade Flaherty said he and Crawford talked when he got back to Rockford last fall.

We had a pretty good discussion and he came in and really was impressive as far as his work ethic, said Flaherty, who shared the Rockford net with Crawford in the 2007-08 season. It wouldve been very easy for him to say, Hey, it didnt work out. I deserved better. But he didnt. I was proud how he responded to the situation.

Rockford coach Bill Peters concurred.

He was excellent, Peters said. He was frustrated a little bit. He was like Corey Schneider. They were both good goaltenders, both behind proven guys. He was ripe on the vine. Others hadnt seen him in pressure situations. He stole games for me here.

Crawfords done that a few times for the Blackhawks this season, too. His calm demeanor is the same in net as it is in the locker room. Crawfords been big, hes been reliable. And while hes among some impressive Calder candidates this season, Carolinas Jeff Skinner and San Joses Logan Couture among them, Crawfords earned consideration at a little personal hardware.

I think hes ahead of that group, Peters said. I really like (Skinner and Couture), but if you had to pick a most valuable position, a position you need covered, its in the net. I dont think theres any more of a valuable player than the guy in Chicago right now.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Reaction to Artem Anisimov trade and development camp standouts

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Reaction to Artem Anisimov trade and development camp standouts

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis react to the trade of Artem Anisimov to the Senators for Zack Smith. The guys discuss the role Smith could have with the Hawks and the areas where he has an edge over Anisimov.

They also discuss the first couple days of Development Camp and how this year’s top two draft picks — Kirby Dach and Alex Vlasic — have looked so far. Plus, a breakdown of the other top blue-liners and how Adam Boqvist, Nicolas Beaudin and Chad Krys have progressed and why they agree with Ian Mitchell’s decision to return to Denver for his junior year.

0:35 – Initial reaction to Anisimov/Smith trade

2:02 – Smith adds faceoff and penalty kill abilities

3:38 – Candidates for bottom-six center spots

4:57 – Edge a common theme among new Blackhawks

6:08 – Alex Nylander’s presence at Development Camp

8:20 – Kirby Dach has an open door to a roster spot

10:38 – Alex Vlasic holding his own against Dach

11:46 – Adam Boqvist wants to play in the NHL now

13:23 – Were Blackhawks recent moves scripted before NHL Draft?

15:28 – Ian Mitchell’s decision to return to college

18:57 – Young defenseman make decisions tough down the road

20:21 – Keeping an eye on Philipp Kurashev at camp

21:20 – Is Stan Bowman done making moves?

22:34 – Salary cap outlook with DeBrincat/Strome extensions coming

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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2019 Blackhawks development camp: Day 2 thoughts and takeaways

2019 Blackhawks development camp: Day 2 thoughts and takeaways

Here are several thoughts and takeaways from Day 2 of Blackhawks development camp at Fifth Third Arena:

1. Why Alex Nylander wanted to be at camp

The Blackhawks invited 37 prospects to development camp. Only one of them has NHL experience and that's Nylander, who was a late addition after he was acquired from Buffalo for Henri Jokiharju.

Nylander has been one of the standouts so far, and rightfully so. He's supremely gifted and is ahead of the curve in comparison to some of the other prospects attending. But he's behind on his own development curve, and the Blackhawks wanted to see him on the ice this week because he's going to be one of the players in the mix for an everyday roster spot when training camp rolls around.

While it may have been unexpected to see Nylander's name on the prospect camp list because it feels like he's been around forever, he was all for getting a headstart despite not participating in the Sabres' development camp the week after the NHL Draft.

"I mean, I just got traded here," Nylander said. "I wanted to meet everybody and get on the ice. It’s been a couple of months since I was on the ice, so I thought it was a great opportunity for me to come here, show what I’ve done in training through the summer and I can get even better toward training camp. I just didn’t need to go to Buffalo’s camp."

2. Ripple effects of Artem Anisimov trade

The Blackhawks made a trade in the middle of camp on Tuesday, with Anisimov going to Ottawa in exchange for power forward Zack Smith. It's a move that cleared $1.3 million in cap space for the Blackhawks, but also opened the door for somebody to snatch up that third-line center role.

Kirby Dach, anyone?

GM Stan Bowman mentioned Ryan Carpenter, David Kampf, Andrew Shaw and Zack Smith as guys who have experience playing center but didn't single anyone out as a potential leading candidate to fill Anisimov's shoes in the third-line center role. One of those four figures to secure the fourth-line center position, which will likely be Carpenter or Kampf — perhaps we could see situational faceoffs between them with Carpenter a right-handed shot and Kampf a lefty.

It truly does feel like the third-line center position is up for grabs, and the Blackhawks don't seem to mind it that way. Bowman said Dach could very well be part of the group, and it's difficult not to wonder whether the No. 3 overall pick has a fair chance of making it.

"We have quite a few potential options there to play in the middle," Bowman said. "It’s hard to map out some lines and who is going to be in what spot but I think we have different looks that we can throw at the other team. Part of training camp is going to be to find out where does everybody fit and which combinations work best."

Other notes:

— Chris Kunitz has been sitting with the Blackhawks front office contingent observing camp. He hasn't announced what his future holds, but if he's ready to call it quits on his playing career, it wouldn't be surprising to see the organization bring him on in some capacity.

— Alexis Gravel made his camp debut on Tuesday. He did not participate in on-ice sessions on Monday because he wasn't medically cleared to do so.

— Tim Soderlund was listed on the prospect camp roster but has been absent for the first two days because of visa issues. It's unclear whether that will get resolved before camp wraps up on Friday.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.