Corey Crawford Answers The Bell
The Chicago Blackhawks became the second Western Conference team to advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs by defeating the Minnesota Wild in five games. Despite Minnesota’s starter Niklas Backstrom going down with injury in the Game 1 warm-ups, Josh Harding filled in valiantly forcing overtime in Game 1 and even winning Game 3 on home ice.
One of the few questions marks about the Blackhawks in the post season was the play of Corey Crawford, the goaltender had lost in the first round the previous two seasons and critics wondered if he could rise to the challenge. Corey Crawford silenced the opposition with a strong series against Minnesota and was the main reason they won Game 5.
With Ray Emery re-aggravating his lower body injury late in the season it cemented Crawford as the starting goalie for the playoffs, which brought about much skepticism. Crawford had struggled in the 2012 playoffs against Phoenix often letting in a soft goal that would just deflate his team.
All season long Corey Crawford has shown the same skill and style he used the previous two seasons in the league but came into this season more mentally ready. Crawford showed the ability to shake off a bad goal and refocus to get the job done.
You may think when a team goes 21-0-3 to be undefeated in regulation for the first half of the regular season that it must all be smooth sailing. Every game had added amounts of pressure of Crawford to keep the streak going and the added experience and confidence from keeping it going so long has definitely benefited him in the playoffs.
Game 5 was the perfect example of just how far Corey Crawford has come. Minnesota had their backs to the wall and were desperate not to get eliminated, so they came out of the gates flying. The Wild only managed 22 shots on goal in Game 5 but 10 came in the first period.Crawford stood tall early on while the Blackhawks big guns got going and scored 4 goals on 23 shots in periods 2 and 3.
Corey Crawford has elevated his game from his stellar regular season numbers going 4-1 with a 1.32 GAA and a .950 save percentage. He leads the league in every goaltending category and is tied for first in save percentage with Ottawa’s Craig Anderson.
Don’t expect Corey Crawford to get complacent now that he has final advanced to the second round, NHL.com correspondent Brian Hedger caught up with him after game and he has this to say:
We’ll take it. It’s a win and we’re moving on. It feels good right now, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do.
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Game 5 saw the start of the Saad-Toews-Hossa line beginning to click and if they catch fire the Blackhawks can cruise through round 2. All signs are pointing towards another extended playoff run for the Blackhawks and for the first time it seems like goaltending won’t be a question mark.