Game 6: Crawford steps up when Blackhawks need it most

Game 6: Crawford steps up when Blackhawks need it most
April 27, 2014, 7:45 pm
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The chant of “Corey, Corey” rose from the United Center fans as the seconds dwindled off the clock.

The Chicago Blackhawks goaltender had a roller-coaster start to his series, culminating in him calling himself out after a poor Game 2 ending. On Sunday, he answered the ultimate call when the Blackhawks needed him most.

Crawford stopped 34 of 35 shots, including all 17 he faced during a penalty-kill laden second period, as the Blackhawks beat the St. Louis Blues 5-1 at the United Center on Sunday. It was another big game for Crawford, who also shut out the Blues in Game 3 of this series.

For coach Joel Quenneville, Crawford’s resurgence after Game 2 was impressive.

“It was a real good rest-of-the-series response. He took the challenge,” Quenneville said. “He said he had to be better and he took a lot of responsibility and led the charge. He did what he had to do to have the guys in front of him comfortable and confident. It was good that he said what he did, and backed it up.”

Jonathan Toews agreed.

“That’s what a leader does: he’s not afraid to take the blame and take the criticism and the negative attention, and he pulls through,” said Toews, who provided the game-winner early in the third. “Your teammates respond to play and behavior like that. It’s a pretty amazing job by him.”

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The Blues outplayed the Blackhawks through the first 40 minutes of Sunday’s game. Chicago going on the penalty kill constantly didn’t help. The Blues had two power plays in the first and four more in the second, when they outshot the Blackhawks 17-3. Crawford withstood the pressure, keeping the Blackhawks tied 1-1 heading into the third period.

“I think I was pretty sharp all game,” Crawford said. “I mean, that was a little bit of penalty trouble in the second and our PK was great again: some big blocks by our forwards and D, too, clearing the puck when we had the chance. That’s always important to get it down the ice. I think our power play got us going with a massive goal in the third.”

Bryan Bickell, watching during those penalty kills, was impressed with how Crawford came out of it.

“Some shots, I wonder how he sees them,” Bickell said. “He was our best penalty killer.”

Crawford has defied the criticism again, including the blame he put on himself. Ryan Miller was the much-ballyhooed goaltender coming into this series. Crawford, however, is the one who came up with the goaltending victories when necessary.