Crawford's new pregame routine a success

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford used to be one of the boys prior to games he started in net.

For the previous two years, Crawford joined his teammates in the hallway and got ready for games by having some laughs and knocking the soccer ball around. That’s how he kept himself loose.

This season, he has given that up and chosen a new way to relax prior to games.

In the season opener Saturday and in the home opener Tuesday, Crawford isolated himself from everyone and focused on the game alone in silence. Through two games, Crawford has been pleased with the results.

On Tuesday, Crawford improved to 2-0 on the season as he made 32 saves in the Blackhawks’ 3-2 win over the St. Louis Blues at the United Center. He has allowed a total of four goals in two games.

“I’m starting to go off in the corner by myself a little bit,” Crawford said following the win. “Stretch out for a while and just think about the game. I’m just going through certain situations -- their players or just thinking about the game and stuff. So far, it’s done pretty good for me. I’ve felt very focused from the get-go.”

Crawford said he felt glued to the puck in the Blackhawks’ 5-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday. He had a similar feeling Tuesday. Just as he did against the Kings, Crawford held the Blues scoreless through two periods before allowing two goals in the final period.

Unlike in the Kings game, though, Crawford didn’t have the comfort of a few-goal lead in the third period Tuesday. When he allowed a power-play goal with 5:07 remaining in the third period against the Blues, the Blackhawks’ lead was cut to 3-2 and the pressure was put on him not to give up another goal.

For the final five minutes, the Blues came at Crawford with shots at all angles, looking to even the game. For the game’s final 1:05, the Blues pulled their goalie and tried to score with a sixth skater.

Each and every time, Crawford and the Blackhawks’ defense stood strong and kept the puck from entering the net. He stopped 14 shots in all in the third period.

“When the game was on the line, he was big,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “He’s quick. He moved. He anticipated well. He had a couple really big, big saves, very timely.”

Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane wouldn’t have expected any less from Crawford.

“He’s a great goaltender, and he’s played well since he’s came in here for us,” Kane said. “We have all the confidence in the world with him.

“He’s playing great to start. I’m sure he’ll continue to do it.”

Crawford was hopeful of a strong start this season after an up-and-down sophomore season, during which he was 30-17-7 with a 2.72 goals-against average and .903 save percentage.

“I’ve been thinking about [the season] for a while,” Crawford said. “I’ve been trying to prepare myself the best I could. Things have been going well so far. Our team has been playing great right now. Just got to keep that focus and keep that drive going.”

Quenneville is optimistic Crawford is a different player this season.

“He’s got an appetite to get to back to that top level of the league, top goaltenders,” Quenneville said. “He wants to play. I think we saw some top improvement right from the start of training camp to where he’s at.”