Corey Crawford’s focus wasn’t where it needed to be earlier this season.
The Blackhawks goaltender started off well, giving the team a chance to win and recording back-to-back 1-0 shutouts at a time when the team’s offense was generating very little. Then Crawford started allowing goals, the quantity and lack-of quality ones that bring his critics out. Crawford was, as he later put it, “complacent.”
In his last six starts, however, Crawford has been anything but complacent. He’s been focused. He’s been steady. He’s been stingy. And he’s a big reason why the Blackhawks have been stringing more victories together lately.
Crawford recorded a 33-stop shutout, his third shutout in his past four starts, when the Blackhawks beat the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night. It was another outstanding performance in a month full of them for Crawford.
“It’s not bad. I’ll take it,” Crawford said with a smile when asked about his recent shutouts. “I’m just really playing game by game and… it’s just being focused the whole 60 minutes.”
In his last six games, which include five victories and three shutouts, Crawford has allowed just four goals. He allowed that many in one game against the Ottawa Senators on Dec. 3. It shows how Crawford has indeed put the focus back where it belongs. So is this his best stretch ever?
“This year, for sure,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “You look at every year, he’s had some amazing stretches and he just keeps doing it. But he’s very efficient [right now]. His movement, tracking of the puck, his quickness, anticipation, everything seems to be in order. It’s a real good stretch for him and for us.”
Crawford didn’t give any specifics of how he shook his complacency, other than just battling through it. The Blackhawks defense has been better lately, which certainly helps. Crawford has credited the team’s defense for getting a lot of pucks out of his way, eliminating those second-chance opportunities. But there have been games where Crawford’s still faced a lot of quality shots and he’s been the Blackhawks’ best defender.
“He’s played a lot of good hockey ever since he took the starting job a few years ago. When he’s playing the way he is right now he gives that whole team confidence,” Duncan Keith said. “He keeps us in games if we’re not playing our best. And when he’s not getting a lot of work in certain games he’s there to make the save, too.”
Whatever caused Crawford to lose focus for a stretch, to be complacent, is gone. He’s been locked in lately, and he and the Blackhawks are reaping the results of his hot streak.
“I felt pretty good at the beginning of the year and then stuff started going in. It goes like that,” Crawford said. “You just try to eliminate the waves and try to have more good ones than bad ones, obviously.”