Midseason form? No, Corey Crawford is not in midseason form yet. As the Blackhawks goaltender astutely pointed out after an informal skate at Johnny's IceHouse West on Friday, "We haven't played a game yet."
But with an abbreviated 48-game season starting a week from Saturday in Los Angeles, those players who didn't spend the past few months playing in Europe -- that includes Crawford -- will have precious little time to get up to speed.
"The beginning of the season's going to come quick, so you've got to be ready for it," Crawford said. "For guys that have been around here and haven't gone to Europe, we're trying to use practice to get into game shape. Game speed's a little different than practice. We're just trying to mimic it and to get ready."
Crawford's been champing at the bit to get back on the ice since the Hawks lost a six-game first-round playoff series to Phoenix, including three overtime losses, two of which (Games 3 and 4) ended on soft goals allowed by Crawford.
Crawford, entering his third full season with the Hawks, took a slight step back last season. His goals-against average climbed from 2.30 in his full rookie season to 2.72, and his save percentage dropped from .917 to .903. He also failed to record a shutout last season. The Hawks' defense shoulders some of that blame, but Crawford knows the pressure's on him this season, saying "this year is huge for me."
So focus and motivation won't be a problem for Crawford in the every-game-counts shortened season. Not that it ever should be.
"A game's a game," he said. "You approach it the same way. It doesn't matter if it's a 10-game schedule or an 80-game schedule, Just because you play more games doesn't mean you're going to blow off games. It doesn't work that way."