Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville recognized Corey Crawfords up-and-down season on Wednesday. He also recognized the goaltender, who was stellar at the end of 2010-11, could return to that.
Hes going to get more comfortable going into next year, Quenneville said. I expect him to get better as we go along here. Having confidence and showing it in him would be the right thing to do. Hes a quality kid and goaltender.
Crawford wasnt where he needed to be at some times during the postseason, and two of the overtime goals he allowed to Phoenix has some wondering if hes the goaltender to lead this Blackhawks team into 2012-13. In a season where guys like Brian Elliott and Mike Smith have excelled, Crawford took a step back.
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But consider this, folks: it wasnt that long ago that Elliott and Smith were struggling themselves. Crawford had a so-so season, but he could very easily rebound with a great one again.
Earlier on Twitter today, I asked tweeps a question: If someone told you when the season started, that Smith would have this kind of year, would you have believed them? There were a lot of nos, because for the last two seasons Smith was struggling in Tampa Bay. He spent part of last season in Norfolk, the Lightnings minor-league affiliate, and when he was with the big club his goals-against average hovered around 3.00. This year with the Coyotes he had a 2.21 GAA and was a big part of them making the playoffs.
And Smith doesnt get a break in the shots-faced category. With the exception of their regular-season finale against Minnesota when he faced 24, Smith faced 32 or more shots in every game since March 18.
Elliott has also rebounded. He had a 3.19 GAA with Ottawa last season before he was traded to Colorado, where it ballooned to 3.83. With St. Louis, its 1.56.
Yes, both of those goalies are doing those with different teams than where they had their rough GAAs. Then lets look at Carey Price, whos been with the Montreal Canadiens for several seasons now: his GAA has gone from 2.83 two seasons ago to 2.77 last season to 2.35 this one.
The point? Some of this years best have had their lulls.
Crawford said on Wednesday that hell look at what he did right, try to build off it, and learn how to handle the tough times better.
One (thing) is to be able to just get over that hump and keep playing, to not let things get to you and thats probably very important for a No. 1 goaltender, Crawford said. This was a year when maybe a little bit more frustration set in than should have. I just have to make sure those down times arent as long or as bad for next season.
Even with the roller-coaster season he hadand it was that, for sureCrawford still collected 30 victories for the second consecutive season. But in the sports world youre always remembered for what you did lately, so Crawfords potential moving forward is up for debate.
Crawford can rebound, just like other goaltenders already have. Its ultimately up to him to do it.