Corey Crawford looked to his right as Henrik Zetterberg knocked in the game-tying goal early in the third period. It wasn’t a bad goal, but one that gave the Detroit Red Wings life all the same.
The Chicago Blackhawks goaltender just shrugged it off.
“I don’t remember thinking about it too much,” he said. “It went in. Whatever. Move onto the next one and focus on making the next save.”
And that, perhaps more than anything is why Crawford of 2013 resembles Crawford of 2011 more than Crawford of 2012: he’s shaking off every and any goal, good or bad, and responding with the big saves that have the Blackhawks on to the Western Conference Finals.
Crawford stopped 26 of 27 on Wednesday night, including eight in the third period when the Wings tied the game and looked ready to make up for their two missed opportunities they had to eliminate the Blackhawks. After receiving so much flack for last season, especially in the playoffs, Crawford is coming up big this postseason. As of Thursday, Crawford is tied for first in victories (8) ranked second in goals-against average (1.70) and third in save percentage (.938). The goalie tied or just ahead of him in all those categories: the Los Angeles Kings’ Jonathan Quick.
Crawford is lacking that Stanley Cup that Quick has, but he’s getting the series victories that eluded him, and making the stops that his critics said he couldn’t.
“(The Wings) put a lot of pucks at the net, dangerous shots at the net, second opportunities. Crow was great tonight,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “You have to commend him on his composure and how he persevered over the last three games. Winning the series was big for him and for us; great job by him.”
Crawford’s preparation and personality remain the same through this postseason. He talked during the regular season about making adjustments, from being more square in the net and seeing the puck better. He also refocused off the ice; instead of taking part in the pregame soccer-like contest with a few other Blackhawks, Crawford would find a quiet place and concentrate on the game.
That’s all been evident this postseason, especially in Game 6. Crawford gave up a fluttering goal to Detroit’s Joakim Andersson, giving the Red Wings a 2-1 lead heading into the third period. The Blackhawks responded with big goals on one end and Crawford responded with big stops at the other, stymieing 35 shots that night.
“Goals go in; it’s going to happen,” Brandon Saad said. “But he’s been playing great. He’s a big reason why we’re here and we’re fortunate to have him.”
Patrick Kane said Crawford’s played “unbelievable” in the Detroit series.
“He’s a top goaltender in the league and he’s proven that every game this year and through the playoffs, too. We’re lucky to have him,” Kane said. “He takes up a lot of space, a lot of room. It’s nice to see him do well because he works hard. It’s good to see that work paying off.”
The work ethic was always there for Crawford. The ability to shake off a goal, good or bad, and come up with the clutch stops at critical times wasn’t always there enough. It is now.
Move onto the next one, focus and make the next save: Crawford’s mantra has him moving past the goals allowed and the Blackhawks moving on to the next round.