By Tracey Myers
Corey Crawford was still sitting in the Blackhawks' locker room as the
media filed in on Saturday night, a large contingent probably passed him
The game-winning goal scorer, Bryan Bickell, had his scrum.
So did Patrick Sharp, who deflected Brent Seabrook's shot to force
overtime. Seabrook got his attention, too.
But lost in the
shuffle of late regulation and overtime goals and hits on the opposing
goaltender was the work of Crawford, who stopped 30 of 33 en route to
the Blackhawks' 4-3 victory over Phoenix on Saturday. Crawford was
especially strong down the stretch, stopping the Coyotes' attempts to
cushion that lead late in the third period and win it in overtime.
glove saves, 2-on-1 stops, Crawford came through and gave the
Blackhawks a chance to win on the other side. He said he was feeling
confident entering the postseason, and it's showing.
on, I'm feel good. I'm picking the right spots to be aggressive, when
to sit back a little bit," he said recently. "It just seems like my game
is coming together."
This is the Corey Crawford the Blackhawks
saw last season. The one that won the starting job around December from
veteran Marty Turco. The one who played 30-plus games - regular season
and playoff - at the end of the season, helping the Blackhawks stay in
the postseason picture. The one who just about got the Blackhawks past
Vancouver and into the second round of the Western Conference playoffs.
that guy was missing several times in 2011-12. He struggled, gave up
goals in bunches and was pulled way too often. And as Ray Emery played
well in relief, it looked like the Blackhawks were going to face another
goalie controversy, another season in which No. 2 usurped No. 1.Turning things around
March, however, Crawford was regaining his form. And as the Blackhawks
solidified their hold on the No. 1 spot and played through injuries,
Crawford was there.
"I think he's really stepped up his game a few levels," Patrick Sharp said. "He's gearing up to play well and we know he will."
he has. When Crawford was struggling, he wasn't moving well. He was
reacting slow to shots, getting out of position and not getting back
fast enough. Those glitches are gone, and Crawford's sharpness was
evident on Saturday.
"I like the way he's finished a big stretch
of the season," coach Joel Quenneville said. "He's got some momentum in
his game and he was instrumental in us getting into the playoffs."
in Game 2, the Blackhawks' offensive fireworks overshadowed the guy who
was snuffing out the opponents' chances on the other side. Perhaps Mike
Smith's 46-stop performance - and the hit he took from Andrew Shaw
behind the net in the second period - was more eye-popping.
Crawford deserves his credit for the Blackhawks' victory on Saturday.
And if he continues to log games like that, and like last postseason,
his performances are going to be too hard to ignore. Tracey Myers reports on the Chicago Blackhawks. Follow her on Twitter @TramyersCSN.
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