Blackhawks' Corey Crawford handling playoff pressure

Blackhawks' Corey Crawford handling playoff pressure
April 18, 2014, 3:00 pm
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ST. LOUIS – Overtime: it’s as intense a time as you can get in a postseason hockey game.

Every move is so critical. Every pass has to be precise, every shot strong. There’s that fine line between making a great move and being reckless, and being on the right side of that line could decide a game.

And then there’s the goaltender, that last line of defense. The pressure they feel throughout a game is that much more magnified in extra time. Corey Crawford was feeling that on Thursday night, as he faced 52 shots over five-plus periods of hockey. But as the seconds tick on, Crawford doesn’t think about the added pressure. He just keeps his focus on the next shot.

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“Honestly, I don’t even think about it,” he said Friday afternoon. “As the game goes on, I feel like I just kind of get in the zone and I’m just reading the plays and seeing who was out on the ice and it’s more just being in the game than really thinking about anything else.”

Crawford was in the zone on in Game 1 and he had to be. The Blues had a high shot total, but that wasn’t terribly surprising considering how long the game went. But the Blues had some high-quality chances, and Crawford made some impressive stops through the night. His teammates commended him after the game.

“He’s awesome; he’s a great goaltender,” Patrick Kane said. “I think with him, you almost expect that out of him. He made some big saves throughout the game. It’s unfortunate we couldn’t get another one for him.”

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Still, there are some physical challenges to playing a game that long. Crawford said he tries to take advantage of any quick respites he can get.

“You want to be able to save energy at certain points in the game that maybe you wouldn’t through 60 minutes,” he said. “Maybe when the puck’s in the zone and there’s not really a danger for a shot and an opportunity. Maybe I’m resting or standing up and conserving a little bit whereas during a regular 60 minutes I’m crouched down and prepared for anything. In OT, maybe I relaxed a little bit in certain situations; then when I see something’s available for the other team then I get ready.”

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Crawford was ready. Despite winning a Stanley Cup last season and nearly winning the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP, Crawford still has his critics. The pressure is always there for a goaltender. Crawford’s handling it well, especially in those pressure-laden overtime games.

“He was huge,” Jonathan Toews said. “When they were getting their chances they were great chances that should’ve gone in. He had some huge glove saves and some stretched-out pad saves. He kept us in the game. We wouldn’t have had a chance to win without him.”