After earning a contract extension last summer with a superb 2010-11 campaign, Crawford now finds himself with higher numbers than he'd like heading into Friday night's game at the United Center against the New York Islanders (8:30 p.m., CSN-Chicago, MSG Plus).
Crawford has an inflated 2.86 goals-against average and surprisingly-low .898 save percentage through 21 games. He's also allowed four or more goals six times, including three of the last six games and two of the last three -- a 4-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday being the latest.
"It's hard to put it on one specific thing," said Crawford, who's been reviewing video and taking extra work with Hawks goaltending coach Stephane Waite recently. "We worked on some technical stuff in practice, but I'm still confident and feel I can bounce back from that."
That's what he's preparing to do against the Islanders, whom he shutout 5-0 last season in the same arena. It's not like all of his recent starts or performances have been bad, either. Crawford played great in a 1-0 loss on the road against the San Jose Sharks on Nov. 23 and then beat the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 on the road three days later.
According to Hawks coach Joel Quenneville, it's more a consistency issue than anything else.
"We're evaluating him, but he's had a couple of real strong games recently," Quenneville said. 'He was real good in San Jose. He had a real good game in L.A. So, he's coming off an ordinary game (against Phoenix), but across the board we were ordinary as a team. Maybe we're comparing him to that elite standard. Everybody's entitled to be ordinary certain games, but for the most part he's been real good for us."
One of the issues Crawford said he's working to fix is taming his tendency to come too far out of the net -- which can change his positioning and leave too much of the net open. That plus the mental part of it are the biggest things he's addressing.
"Eventually it's going to happen, so you kind of just have to wipe the slate clean and don't worry about it and get ready for the next one," Crawford said after Friday's morning skate. "There's times where maybe the puck looks a little bigger than usual, but it's a hard game. Teams are competing and there's good teams in the League. It's never going to be an easy night, so I just have to be prepared to work hard and be at my best every night."
Has the League maybe caught up to Crawford in terms of scouting reports? Is Crawford now at the point where he must readjust his game to the rest of the League?
Possibly, but he's not going to worry about that at this point, when the simpler approach is probably the best.
"My job is to stop the puck and I haven't been doing that consistently. So, I feel like I have to get back to that -- where night in, night out I have to bring a good performance and give my guys a chance to win. I'm sure teams have gotten to know me a little bit, but who knows, maybe they knew me at the end of last year, too. I don't think it makes a huge difference." -- Corey Crawford
"I don't want to be thinking too much," Crawford said. "My job is to stop the puck and I haven't been doing that consistently. So, I feel like I have to get back to that -- where night in, night out I have to bring a good performance and give my guys a chance to win. I'm sure teams have gotten to know me a little bit, but who knows, maybe they knew me at the end of last year, too. I don't think it makes a huge difference."
Neither does Quenneville.
"You learn as you go along (about) the shooters, the teams, their tendencies and strengths," he said. "I think over time goalies get improved, and that's why it takes time as a goalie to get comfortable with our League. Crow did a great job last year. He got off to a great start this year. He's had some good games in November and that consistency is what we've come to appreciate. I think that's what we're looking for, but I don't think (teams are) figuring him out to a level that (he needs to change anything)."