As the Chicago Blackhawks defense piles up the accolades for its performance the last two games -- including a 3-2 win over Los Angeles at the United Center on Sunday -- let’s not forget the rookie goaltender who is also performing at a high level.
All Corey Crawford does is win. Discounting a loss in relief in Colorado, Crawford is 8-1-1 over his last 10 starts, including Sunday.
“The more teams I play and the more I get to see the other players, you get to know their tendencies,” Crawford said after stopping 26 of 28 shots against Los Angeles. “The more I know that, the better off I am.”
Crawford has often been called a goaltender who “takes up the net” and “plays big”. Listed at 6-2, 200 pounds, he’s three inches and 16 pounds heavier than Marty Turco. Against the Kings, he was called upon to hit the ice more often than usual and cover up during several goal-mouth scrums.
“Sometimes your vision is blocked and you have that big body, it hits you,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “And on the [rebound] you’re taking away a big part of the bottom of the net. Sometimes it’s those rebounds you don’t see and you get in the way. He finds a way to be square and take up some quality net.”
Standing, or flat on the ice, Crawford isn’t letting things squeak by. Ironically, as he covered the bottom of the net, Wayne Simmonds got his stick on a puck which popped over Crawford for the Kings’ second goal early in the third period to make it 3-2. Crawford shut the door for the rest of the period, stopping 10 of 11, the most of the three periods. As usual, the unassuming Crawford gave credit to his teammates.
“I don’t remember one time where they had a quality shot from the slot,” Crawford said. “Our guys played really well again and got the garbage away from out in front of the net. As a goaltender, that makes it so much easier.”
For the second year in a row, Blackhawks nation is seeing a goaltender grow up in front of its eyes. Crawford has become the man in net and with each passing day his confidence grows and the wins pile up. He’s a backup no longer.
“It’s nice to be in a game and not just kind of knowing what they do from watching on television,” Crawford said. “It’s nice to be in the ice and get a feel for what guys do.”
The Hawks have taken one minor penalty over the last two games, both wins.
Dave Bolland won 76 percent of his faceoffs, his best performance in the circle this season.
For the second consecutive game, Brian Campbell played the most minutes of any Hawk. He logged 23:19 to Duncan Keith’s 23:10.
Bryan Bickell extended a career-high point streak to four games with his ninth assist on Fernando Pisani’s game-winning goal.
“Obviously, that’s the way we expect to play, and the way we know we can play every single night. Going into every game now we just have to remind ourselves that it’s much more enjoyable when everyone plays the way we did tonight. And when everyone’s prepared the way we have as a team the last couple games, we’re going to have way more fun, especially in our own building. We did a great job of taking away their second opportunities and big scoring chances. You saw in those two games against Colorado, we were giving up some weak goals; they seemed to have odd-man rushes every other shift. That wasn’t acceptable, so obviously we’re stepping up and playing smarter, both defense and forwards.” -- Jonathan Toews