Clutch Crawford again carries Hawks

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Before talking to the media late Thursday evening Chicago Blackhawks’ goaltender Corey Crawford had a request. He simply needed a towel to wipe off his head after a hard night’s work. A pat on the back would have sufficed as well.

Crawford had another outstanding performance in helping the Hawks to a 3-2 shootout victory over the Florida Panthers. Forty-one saves and three more in the shootout earned him No. 1 star of the game.

"Awesome game. Great game. Best player on our team. No doubt about it,” Patrick Kane said.

Kane performed his own heroics, so hearing those words means even more. Like several times already this season, Crawford was good early and again late. He stopped 15 shots in the first, 15 more combined in the third and overtime and all three shooters in the shootout.

“They let me see the puck,” Crawford said matter-of-factly about his night. “I saw pretty much every shot tonight so that makes a difference.”

Crawford is so low-key about his performance it’s a wonder even needs a towel after games. Nothing rattles him.

“At the end of the night it was a goalie win,” Joel Quenneville stated. “He kept us in there and we tried to get the win in regulation there but they hemmed us in our end pretty well. It wasn’t pretty but give some Craw some credit.”

He’s getting plenty of it. From his teammates and fans alike. It may not have been the prettiest of wins but the other team is allowed some chances as well and a goalie is allowed to steal a game.

“It's an improved team,” defenseman Sean O’Donnell said of Florida. “They’re good … You get in the 40s [for shots on goal] you’re playing with fire a little bit.”

But Crawford was there to extinguish the flame as he’s done so many times in his young career though he did give up the tying goal with about two minutes remaining in regulation. The Panthers had been throwing everything at him. Was he watching the clock at that point?

“I try not to look at the clock because then I think I’m more worried about that then focus on the game,” Crawford said. “I try not to look at it and stay focused on the puck.”

He has been focused. And improving. Especially in stopping breakaways via in-game or shootouts. Thursday he faced former teammate Tomas Kopecky in the penalty shooting phase of the night.

“I faced him a couple of times last year in practice,” Crawford explained. “I had a couple things in back of my head but I was just trying to get out and do the normal thing and not try to guess.”

It’s the best part of his game: He doesn’t guess often. He’s so technically sound, simply relying on that is getting Crawford where he needs to be.

And helping his team to victories.