Blackhawks, Crawford rolling ahead of matchup with Avs

CHICAGO — During his tenure with the Chicago Blackhawks, Corey Crawford has played a pivotal role in helping deliver three Stanley Cup championships since 2010.

So as the Blackhawks ride a three-game winning streak into a Thursday home test against the Colorado Avalanche, it is no secret that Crawford has been at the center of Chicago's recent success.

Crawford, who made 33 saves in the Blackhawks' 5-1 win over the Calgary Flames on Tuesday, boosts the level of play of those playing in front of him on a nightly basis.

“He gives us confidence,” Blackhawks forward Artemi Panarin said after Tuesday night's victory. “We were calmer (against the Flames). We made those little bit risky plays knowing we have a great goalkeeper behind us.”

Over his career, Crawford has grown more consistent in net, which, in turn, made him among the NHL's best. But over Chicago's three-game win streak, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is seeing that consistency became a staple of Crawford's game much in the way it did throughout last season.

Crawford registered at least 32 saves in each of the three wins, leading to a save percentage of .926 this season. Crawford owns a 4-3-1 record.

Like the Blackhawks (6-3-1), Crawford is raising his game up a level of late.

“I'm feeling better and better every game,” Crawford said Tuesday night. “I'm feeling quicker out there reading plays, that's a big part of it, too, being able to read a play and get out and be aggressive when it's time. Just everything is coming together each game and just went out there and battled.”

While Crawford has the Blackhawks moving in the right directions, the Avalanche find themselves struggling. Colorado dropped a 5-1 decision to the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night in Denver.

The defeat was Colorado's third in its past four games, dropping the Avalanche back to .500 for the season, 4-4-0.

“It's not at all how we want to play,” coach Jared Bednar said after the Tuesday loss. “It's pretty bad. … We didn't find the intensity we needed for the game. It was disappointing because it was a chance for us to go a couple of games above .500, and now we're just spinning in the mud again.”

As Crawford has experienced at times earlier this season, the Avalanche are struggling with inconsistent play. That will be put to the test Thursday night when they face a Blackhawks team that is looking to keep its positive momentum.

Colorado, meanwhile, will look to reverse its course and get things back on track.

“We're trying to make sure we get certain things out of our group every night,” Bednar said. “When we get them, we give ourselves a good chance to win. When we don't get them, right now it's almost a guaranteed loss.”

To that end the Avalanche held a team meeting after the loss to Nashville.

Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog said, “To a man, we have to be honest and look at ourselves in the mirror and reflect the way we come to work every day. I'm not going to go into details about the meeting. We're going to come to the rink … with a good attitude. Tonight, it's got to be said, this was embarrassing.”