Corey Crawford was as jubilant as anyone when Patrick Kane’s shot whizzed over Jonathan Quick’s head. After all the knocks on how he wasn’t a goaltender that could get a team to a Stanley Cup Final, he’s going there.
“I dreamed about it my whole life. Worked hard, so it’s nice to finally get there after all the work,” Crawford said with a smile on Saturday night, after he stopped 33 of 36 shots in the Blackhawks’ 4-3 double-overtime victory over the Los Angeles Kings. “But there’s still a lot to do so we’ve got to be ready.”
Crawford certainly wanted to come out on top of that goalie duel, the one where most of the attention focused around the Kings’ Quick, the defending Stanley Cup champion and Conn Smythe winner. The pre-series attention was well deserved for Quick. The post-series attention is just as well deserved for Crawford.
“You've got to commend him on how he's played all year long. The consistency, his approach where he just moves forward to see the next situation, the next shot; he’s unflappable in that area,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He's moved us along here and guys have responded in front of him. But Corey has been rock solid.”
Crawford enters the Stanley Cup Final with a league-leading 1.74 goals-against average; he’s second in save percentage at .935. The guy behind him in the first category and ahead of him in the second is his next opponent, Boston goaltender Tukka Rask (1.75 GAA, .943 save percentage). Crawford has shaken off whatever goals he’s given up, good and bad, with big saves. So considering how much criticism Crawford got for the Blackhawks’ early exit last season, it’s only fair he gets that much credit for them going to the final.
“I think he certainly deserves all the credit in the world and then some. I mean, he's doing it all,” Jonathan Toews said. “He's one of the huge reasons we're still here and we’re still playing. He’s had to battle and he's had to go through some tough times like anybody else. He's persevered. Here you see him playing his best hockey of his career, and he helps his team compete for a Stanley Cup.”
Marian Hossa agreed.
“He proved to everybody he’s a great starter,” Hossa said. “He battled through hard times last year, but this year he’s come up so strong in the regular season and now in the playoffs. He’s been unbelievable for us.”
Crawford has made it to the Cup Final. He won the so-called battle of the goaltenders between him and Quick. But it’s ultimately not about that. It’s about claiming that Cup, the one he and every player who has laced up skates dreams of attaining.
“I wanted to beat (Quick) but it’s more about us moving on to accomplish our goal,” Crawford said. “You’re competitive, you want to beat the other side. But the main thing is you want to move on to what you really want to get.”