Bears

Crawford conquering mental side of his game

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Crawford conquering mental side of his game

The puck whizzed by Corey Crawford and was in the back of his net barely 30 seconds into the first period on Wednesday night. It wasnt really Crawfords fault, but it was nevertheless a tough one to give up that quickly.

A few weeks ago, when Crawford was struggling, giving up that goal likely wouldve led to giving up a few more. But Crawford buckled down after that early one and never allowed the Vancouver Canucks another one in the Blackhawks 2-1 overtime victory. Its another sign that the goaltender is regaining the game that he had his rookie season.

Its not the way you want to start the game, the first shot in. But I was able to battle back, get myself into the game, Crawford said. Our defense was pretty good for most of the game and didnt give up much.

And Crawford gave up even less. He came up biggest in the third period, when the Canucks went on a late charge and threw 14 shots at him.

I thought he rebounded, I thought he responded, coach Joel Quenneville said.

Crawford said hes never lost confidence this season, but it certainly looked like it was wavering during his slumps. Crawfords ridden the goaltending merry-go-round this season: hes had the net, gotten pulled, lost the net, waited for another chance, got it back again and he repeated that sequence at least once.

But since Crawfords latest second chance when he relieved Ray Emery and claimed the shootout victory against the St. Louis Blues on March 13 hes been stellar. In his last five appearances, Crawfords allowed just five goals on 107 shots.

(My confidence) has been the same as all year, Crawford said Wednesday night. Ive made a couple adjustments to my game that we talked about before and Im seeing the puck well and thats huge.

And last night may have been a huge step, too. Crawford wasnt flustered by the quick goal, wasnt getting away from the adjustments hes made.

When Crawford took over the No. 1 goaltending job in the second half of last season, he was showing this type of confidence. He wasnt giving up much, he was dependable and he wasnt rattled easily. Crawfords starting to show that side again.

Thats one of those things where hes strong mentally, Marian Hossa said. You can tell by (Wednesday), especially against a team like Vancouver. After that (first goal) he played unbelievable. Thats huge for him and for us.

Under Center Podcast: Previewing Bears-Redskins with JP Finlay

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Previewing Bears-Redskins with JP Finlay

JJ Stankevitz chats with NBC Sports Washington Redskins Insider JP Finlay to preview Monday night's game, which just might be a must-win for Washington (1:20).

Also, is the Redskins' defense actually as bad as it's looked in the first two games of 2019? (2:30) Will Josh Norman shadow Allen Robinson and try to shut him down? (6:15)

On the offensive side of the ball, JP explains what's made Case Keenum so good this year (9:45) and if rookie wideout Terry McLaurin's explosive start to the season is sustainable (11:55). Plus, JP gets into the impact of left tackle Trent Williams' holdout (13:30) and how it's effected running back Adrian Peterson (15:05).

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Under Center Podcast

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Daniel Palka finally has a good game in the middle of his nightmare season

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USA TODAY

Daniel Palka finally has a good game in the middle of his nightmare season

In the second inning Daniel Palka solidly lined a ball up the middle that looked like a sure hit off the bat. The problem? The Tigers defense was shifted perfectly to that spot for a lineout.

MLB Statcast gave Palka’s lineout an expected batting average of .650. It seemed like just another night like the rest of them have gone for Palka in the majors in 2019.

He entered Friday with a .034 batting average (2-for-59). After hitting 27 home runs with 45 extra base hits and a .778 OPS as a rookie in 2018, Palka hasn’t been able to do much of anything in a White Sox uniform.

That lineout appeared to be another “nothing can go right” moment. However, Palka’s Friday turned around.

His next time up, he pounded a ground ball that found a hole. Statcast gave that one a 31 percent chance of getting a hit, so he broke even after getting robbed earlier. The amusing thing is that Palka’s groundball single had an exit velocity of 108.9 mph, which was the second hardest hit ball of the game.

Palka later added a bloop single in the seventh and a line drive hit in the ninth to finish with a three hit day. Palka entered the day with two hits in 23 games and got three hits in Friday alone.

Even with the 3-for-5 night, Palka’s batting average is still only .072, but he more than doubled it in one game.

Is this relevant to the future of the White Sox? Almost certainly not, but Palka showed some promise in his rookie season and has been through an absolute nightmare this season. The mental side of going through his 0-for-32 start to the season and the continued struggles since could not have been easy. For at least one night in 2019 Palka had a good game at the plate.

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