Crawford providing Hawks stability in net

ST. LOUIS -- Whether Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford would be able to follow up last season's success was somewhat in question the first two and a half months of this season.

Coming off a career-best season, Crawford wasn't at that same level through his first 24 starts of 2013-14. The Blackhawks often bailed him out with their scoring power, but his numbers indicated he was struggling to find consistency.

Crawford's season took a turn when he suffered a lower-body injury on Dec. 8, sidelining him almost a full month. When he returned, he manned the net the way he did last season. Over the second half of the season, he has maintained that play and diminished doubts about whether he can lead the Blackhawks to another Stanley Cup.

An advanced statistic that's becoming more common to evaluate goaltenders is Quality Starts, achieved when a goaltender has a .917 save percentage or higher or has at least an .885 save percentage along with allowing two goals or fewer. Another statistic also utilized is Really Bad Start, when a goaltender has a save percentage of less than .850 in a game.

Of Crawford's first 24 starts this season, he had 13 Quality Starts and five Really Bad Starts. His .542 Quality Start percentage was far off from the .714 percentage he compiled last regular season. He had 20 Quality Starts and five Really Bad Starts in 28 regular-season games. He was even better in the playoffs, with 20 Quality Starts and one Really Bad Start in 24 games.

In his 31 starts since coming back from his injury this season, he's had 20 Quality Starts for a .645 percentage and just one Really Bad Start, which came in a meaningless 4-0 loss to the Washington Capitals last week, in his final start of the regular season. He's stopped 800 of 866 shots for a .930 save percentage since Jan. 2.

Crawford has acknowledged the change in his play in the second half of the season.

"I've been feeling really well since I came back from injury in December," Crawford said recently. "It's just a matter of going out each time and getting focused and taking nothing for granted and making sure the next puck is mine and ready for each shot."

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville admires how Crawford has been able to move on so quickly from play to play and game to game.

"Goalies, that mindset's got to be what's next, it's not what just happened," Quenneville said. "They've got to go in the now quickly. Whatever happened, good or bad, you've got to move forward because a lot of times you get measured on the ones you don't save. It's the ones that go in, as opposed to the great saves or the ones that are predictable.

"It's always challenging, the scrutiny goalies have and face on a daily basis, especially under the microscope even more so come playoff time. But Crow doesn't get rattled. He's unflappable. Especially at this time of the year, and he's proved last year that he moves forward and handles the next situation."

Crawford had his share of skeptics prior to the playoffs last season, but he quieted most of them after leading the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup. There may always be some who question Crawford's ability, but Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp is sure they weren't among his teammates.

"In our locker room, we certainly respect what he can do," Sharp said. "It seems like we always answer questions about Crow. I'm not sure why. He's a good goalie. There's no questions or lack of respect in our locker room."