CHICAGO -- Anytime he has a sub-par game, which isn’t often, Chicago Blackhawks’ fans undoubtedly wonder if Corey Crawford’s workload is catching up with him.
When Crawford takes the ice for his 44th start of the season on Thursday against the Dallas Stars, it will match his combined total last season between the AHL (43) and the NHL (one). And there’s still 12 games to go in this regular season, plus a potential playoff run.
So is it wearing him down?
“I feel good,” Crawford said after practice on Wednesday. “It’s a lot of games, a lot of work. It’s a different schedule than in the minors. It seems like you play every second day, so it’s important to get rest and make sure you have the most energy as possible.”
Crawford has played in as many as 60 games, but those were all in the minors. He says it’s different in the AHL where games are more spread out from one weekend to the next. That’s not the case in the NHL, so fatigue can catch up with him.
“I start thinking a little bit more,” he said. “And then you’re not reacting as fast.”
But he’s not worried about needing a second wind, especially playing in front of the biggest crowds in the NHL.
“It’s a lot of fun to play here [Chicago] in front of the fans,” Crawford said. “I don’t think you need the extra push to get that motivation. It’s a lot of fun and really gets you going.”
Joel Quenneville is learning what everyone else is about the potential rookie of the year: He has staying power.
“He’s won us some big games and kept us in some big games,” Quenneville said. “We like the way he’s developing as a young goalie. He’s one of these guys that can be a No. 1 for a lot of years.”
Crawford is so technically sound he will probably need to use his instincts more as his career develops. It’s usually the other way around for young goalies.
Although he wasn’t the starter from Day 1, Crawford has only six fewer wins (27) than the league leaders. His 2.31 goals-against average ranks sixth in the league. And he’s still trying to improve.
“If I think I’m beat then [I’m] not giving up and [I have to] keep going and get something in the way,” he said. “Just a glove or a pad. It might make an extra save and make a difference in a game.”
Scoreboard watching: The Hawks aren’t obsessed with watching the standings because they know they are in a position to win a playoff berth without much help.
But it doesn’t mean they’re not paying attention on those off days.
“You have your fingers crossed that certain teams are going to lose on certain nights but, of course, it’s out of our control,” Jonathan Toews said.
The Hawks fell to sixth in the conference after Tuesday’s games but a win on Thursday will propel them back up a seed or two. Many have been asked, but no one is sure, what point total will be needed to guarantee a spot in the top eight.
“I haven’t done the math and I can’t even do it thinking here in front of you guys,” Toews joked with the media. “To me we’re just going to try and win every game. There is a lot of pressure, but we’re very confident. We control our own destiny.”
Players might not be watching many games, but the coaches are.
“There is a lot to watch on non-game day nights,” Quenneville said. “There is a lot to root for. I guess no three-point nights. That’s the best news in those games … It will all sort out. Who’s in, who’s playing who. Let’s just hope we’re playing somebody.”
The Hawks don’t know when to expect Dave Bolland back from a head injury sustai
ned last week against Tampa Bay.“Some come back really quick, some guys don’t,” Toews said. “It’s different for everybody. You want Bolly [Bolland] to take his time and be 100 percent when he does come back. Who knows when that will be? There is no denying he’s a big piece to the puzzle here on our squad.”
The loss of Brian Campbell has opened the door for more playing time for Chris Campoli, who is getting more comfortable playing on both special teams units.“It’s not easy but for the most it’s a copycat league,” Campoli said of the adjustment. “There are different tweaks, but generally it’s a lot of the same thing.”
“Bickell and [Fernando] Pisani worked well together as a line,” Quenneville said. “That might have been part of it.
After Toews was informed Sharp joked Toews needs to be the MVP of the Hawks before he wins MVP of the league, Toews was asked if he’s paying attention to the Hart Trophy talk.
“For that reason alone, not really,” Toews retorted.