Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville says that Corey Crawford will be the starting goalie when the Hawks open up their second round playoff series with the Minnesota Wild this week. This comes after Crawford bailed his team out in game six of their first round series in which they were finally able to eliminate the Nashville Predators. Crawford definitely earned his chance but now he has to keep up his strong play. Here’s how the Blackhawks got to this point.
Crawford’s early benching
The French Canadian goaltender initially found himself on the bench early in the Nashville series. After surrendering three goals in the first period of game one, Crawford was pulled in favor of Scott Darling. The backup pitched a shutout the rest of the way to guide the Hawks to an amazing comeback victory. Crawford got another chance in game two, but then gave up six goals in one of the worst performances of his career.
The progression and regression of Darling
After game two, Crawford could only watch as Darling played like an All-Star games three and four. But it didn’t take long for Crawford to get back on the ice. Coach Quenneville decided to give the veteran his job back after Darling gave up a combined eight goals between game five, and the first 11 minutes of game six. Once Crawford got back on the ice he didn’t disappoint.
Watching Darling’s efforts in games three and four must have been a good thing for Crawford. Because when he got his chance in game six, Crawford ignited a fire under his team. He stopped all 13 shots that came his way during the final 48 minutes and 44 seconds of the game. He finished the night with a perfect save percentage (1.000), picked up his first win of the 2015 postseason, along with his first shutout. This is the type of game Hawks fans were expecting from Crawford when the playoffs started.
Now he needs to find a way to be consistent with these type of efforts. Especially against a Minnesota team that proved themselves to be a very formidable opponent by dispatching the St. Louis Blues in six games. They also gave the Blackhawks -and Crawford- their own fair share of problems during the regular season. If Crawford can continue to string together performances like this, the Hawks have a solid chance of advancing to the conference finals. Follow me on Twitter @GabeSalgado82
Gabe has worked in sports media for over decade and has been heard on the radio, and seen on television in addition to writing.