Crawford 'very confident' he'll be back at training camp, Waite says

 
 
Updated 7/27/2018 9:23 PM
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  • Mark Welsh/mwelsh@dailyherald.comBlackhawks Corey Crawford signs autographs for the fans after returning from missing half the season last year. He was in town for the 11th annual Blackhawks Convention in Chicago on Friday.

    Mark Welsh/mwelsh@dailyherald.comBlackhawks Corey Crawford signs autographs for the fans after returning from missing half the season last year. He was in town for the 11th annual Blackhawks Convention in Chicago on Friday.

Seven months after being placed on injured reserve, Corey Crawford said Friday that he is still not 100 percent.

That may be an alarming fact to some, but not to Blackhawks goaltending coach Jimmy Waite.

"He's telling me that he feels very confident that he's going to be at training camp on Day One," Waite said before the 11th annual Blackhawks Convention. "And he wants to be there. He really wants badly to be (there). That's his job and that's his career."

Crawford has been on injured reserve with an undisclosed upper-body injury since Dec. 27. Before that, he was in the midst of a spectacular season (16-9-2, 929 save percentage, 2.27 goals-against average), and the Hawks were right in the thick of the playoff hunt.

The question now is -- even if Crawford is healthy in September -- can he step in and be the same cream-of-the-crop goaltender teammates, coaches and fans are used to seeing?

"He's a competitor. He works hard. His game is very solid," Waite said. "He's got that type of game where he's not that goalie that relies on all his reflexes.

"He's very strong technically and positionally. All that together, I think he's going to get back and be the same goalie he was."

And if not? What if the nearly unthinkable happens and the Hawks go into the season with Cam Ward and Anton Forsberg?

Can they still compete for a playoff spot?

Waite says yes.

"With a guy like Cam Ward, he's got a lot of experience," Waite said. "And Forsberg -- I think he had a good year last year. He got pushed into a tough situation, but I feel like he's going to be a good goalie in the NHL still.

"It's good to have three guys can compete for the job, and if something happens, we'll have three solid guys. Sometimes one guy goes down and you don't have the depth. Now we do."

Too many miscues:

Even when Corey Crawford went on injured reserve last December, coach Joel Quenneville never gave up hope of the Hawks reaching the playoffs. But with defensive-minded veterans like Marian Hossa, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Marcus Kruger gone, the Hawks turned into an error-prone squad that couldn't protect leads or come back from early deficits.

"Defensively game-in, game-out (those guys) were predictable," Quenneville said. "That's something we want to nail this year. Playing well without the puck -- it's going to make us a better team."

Natives restless?

Ever since the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2015, each season has gotten shorter and shorter.

They were eliminated by the Blues in seven games in the first round in 2016. Then they were swept by the Predators in the first round in 2017. And last year, the Hawks finished dead last in the Central Division.

It's been tough for the fans, but Patrick Kane said they should continue to have high expectations.

"You want the fans to expect you to win," Kane said. "That's the culture that's been created around here for the past 10 or so years. It's a good thing."

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