Crawford realizes dream with Cup win

Crawford realizes dream with Cup win

June 25, 2013, 12:15 am
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Hawks-Bruins Game 6

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BOSTON – Corey Crawford was struggling to find the words, the euphoria and emotions of the moment overwhelming him.

“It’s a great feeling, an unbelievable feeling,” said Crawford. “I couldn’t be happier right now.”

For a goaltender who took plenty of heat when the Chicago Blackhawks lost in the first round last season, Crawford was basking in the glory on Monday night, moments after the team beat the Boston Bruins to claim its second Cup in the past four seasons. For Crawford, the road to the Cup was a long and sometimes frustrating one: years of working in the minors trying to perfect his game and nearly making the Chicago Blackhawks’ 2009-10 backup goaltender helped fuel the drive of Crawford.

“He obviously took a lot of heat over the last couple of years. And all he’s done is just played unreal from start to finish this year,” Keith said of Crawford. “I can’t say enough about him. The pressure on him, to do what he did was unbelievable.”

Viktor Stalberg agreed.

“He’s taking his fare share of a beating from you guys, and he deserves all the credit he’s getting,” he said. “He’s been phenomenal these whole playoffs. (Patrick Kane) is a worthy Conn Smythe winner. But if not him, I think Corey deserved it.”

[WATCH: Crawford at a loss for words after Stanley Cup win]

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said the organization knew Crawford had it in him.

“He hasn’t had lulls; he’s been there every night. I’m happy for him, because he’s worked hard to reach this point,” Bowman said. “He spent a lot of time in the minors working on his game and I think he deserves credit for sticking with it.”

Despite his second consecutive 30-victory regular season in 2011-12, Crawford was the brunt of much criticism when the Blackhawks suffered a first-round loss to the Phoenix Coyotes. But Bowman said a lot of that was unfair, considering what he’d done the season before.

“You watch the way he played in his first playoff experience, (in the spring of 2011) against the Canucks, and he was incredible. He basically got us into the playoffs that year down the stretch. And I’ve said for a long time: You don’t lose your talent over a few months,” Bowman said. “The following year, he had a different role (as No. 1 starter) and it was an adjustment for him. He had to adjust from being the guy who came out of nowhere to being the guy. And it takes time. We’ve seen this year, he’s had that role, he understands how to do it and his talent has never been a question.”

Coach Joel Quenneville said the team was happy for Crawford, and that any question of him being the starter, even after a tough game or two, was ridiculous.

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“I got a question the other day which kind of was surprising, ‘Who's going to play your next game?’ It was obvious who's playing our next game because he was the reason we were playing the next game,” Quenneville said of Crawford. “The scrutiny that he was under at the end of last year going into the season, if he was capable of getting through the regular season, let alone the playoffs.  His preparation going into the year was in the right place. I thought his consistency was great.”

Crawford’s hard work paid off. From his childhood days when he began idolizing Patrick Roy and switched to goalie because of it, to the pond hockey games with his brother and friends, to working through Rockford and up to the Blackhawks, it’s been a long road. But the reward was well worth it.

[GET CHAMPS GEAR: Shop now for Blackhawks 2013 Stanley Cup Champions gear]

“I don’t know how many times we played for the Stanley Cup,” Crawford said of those childhood games in Quebec. “Obviously I had some great memories with (my brother) and my buddies. My family, the whole thing, everyone was behind me. They never quit on me. I couldn’t have done it without them.”