Veteran Ray Emery
will get the start for the Chicago Blackhawks
on Friday night against the Ottawa Senators
and it looks like he has the inside track on the starting job over Corey Crawford
for the remaining 17 games of the regular season.
Crawford was pulled from his second straight start on Wednesday after just one period, which was his seventh time being pulled this season. Needless to say, the second-year goalie who was so impressive and consistent a year ago is struggling to locate where his game and confidence went.
"It's a tough time right now, where I can't even finish a game," Crawford said on Thursday after a practice at the United Center. "I battled hard in practice today and I just got to keep working hard and stay focused. I don't want it to get worse than it is right now."
Crawford, who has a 2.94 goals-against average and .900 save percentage, is beating himself up over his turbulent season. The last two tough starts in particular are especially weighing on his mind, after being pulled after the first period in each one.
"I've never been through this since I started playing goalie," Crawford said. "I've gone on streaks where they're a little bit tougher, but to be up and down this drastically … I'm trying to find answers. Maybe I'm thinking too much. It's just not acceptable. I've got to be better for us. We're fighting for a playoff spot and I've got to find a way to make big saves. It doesn't matter the situation."
Crawford continues to work with Blackhawks goaltending coach Stephane Waite, but Quenneville had his own words of encouragement for the 27-year old who signed a three-year contract extension last summer.
"We'll work at it in practice, whether it's technical adjustments ... but mentally, physically, you know, fight through it," Quenneville said of Crawford's shaken confidence. "Don't give in to it. Look forward and find the confidence you had before. It can be restored quickly and I think that's what we're up to."
Quenneville said opposing teams studied Crawford's tendencies over the past year and likely know them better this year than a year ago -- when Crawford ascended to the starting position as a rookie and played strong.
"He's had good stretches this year," Quenneville said. "Maybe we're comparing him to that standard he had last year, when he was real good for us and instrumental in getting us in the playoffs. He had a real good playoffs, as well. He was relied upon at a critical time of the year and delivered and that was his rookie year. Maybe the expectations and standards were even elevated up off of those levels."
Maybe it's now time for Crawford to readjust to opposing teams by identifying and removing those tendencies they might've picked up. It's all just part of the continual advance-scouting battle that happens in all professional sports, hockey included.
"Every goalie ... the players might [become] a little bit familiar," Quenneville said. "They go through their routines and they're starting to know him, like it goes the other way around. It's part of the learning curve and I know Corey's like a student with how he approaches the game."