Crawford anxious to prove critics wrong

Corey Crawford said one of his priorities is to be able to shake off a bad goal. Rob Grabowski/US Presswire

CHICAGO -- For Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford the extra-long offseason wasn't a good thing. After a down year in 2011-2012, Crawford is looking for redemption.

"I've been itching to get back on the ice and prove everyone wrong," Crawford said Thursday before leaving for the season opener in Los Angeles on Saturday. "I definitely want to be here for the future so I have to make sure I play well and play well all the time."

Crawford is entering his second year of a three-year contract that pays him a total of $8 million. By many standards, his first year wasn't up to par. He ranked 33rd out of 45 in goals against average and 36th in save percentage. But he went 30-17-7 on the year.

"My record was really good, but it could have been better if I was a little more consistent and gave our team a chance in some games where maybe the other team got ahead of us early," Crawford said. "Maybe some games it was 2-0 or 3-1 and it got away from us and got out of hand."

Crawford spoke late last year about his mental approach and how bad goals might stay with him longer than they should have. It fits the idea of games getting away from him after a poor start. He's trying to change that.

"It's important to be strong mentally and be able to shrug something off no matter how bad that is," he said. "It's so cliché but ‘next shot' is so important, just worry about the next one."

Crawford says he also worked on his flexibility during the long lockout in order to give himself a "better chance on late scrambles for rebounds," but his mental approach is still the most important aspect. Especially in a condensed season.

"Its going to be interesting to see how goalies handle that type of workload," coach Joel Quenneville said.

So add that to the pressure Crawford is under. He needs to perform and won't have a regular routine to rely on.

"I'm in good shape, but I've never been through a season like this one," he said. "You have to do the little things to be ready."

Quenneville says Crawford, as well as Ray Emery, needed a team scrimmage on Wednesday night to "shake the rust off."

"He (Crawford) started off just ok but as it picked up you could see him get settled in," Quenneville said. "It will be interesting to see goalies, that haven't played over this time period, how they are game ready."

Crawford has no margin for error anymore. The nice story of his rookie season -- when he and the Hawks nearly upset the No. 1 seed Vancouver Canucks -- is a thing of the past. Coming off a rough year and rough postseason, his time to prove himself is now.

"I definitely had stretches of really good hockey, I'm just trying to focus on those stretches being a lot longer and then not have the bad ones last too long," Crawford said.


* The Hawks will carry the maximum 23 players to open the season in Los Angeles and Phoenix this weekend. Forward Brandon Saad made the team based on his strong final week in Rockford of the AHL.

* The Hawks will fly to Los Angeles on Thursday night and practice there on Friday before taking on the Kings on Saturday afternoon.