The first shot the Minnesota Wild took on Crawford in Game 1 of their first-round series bypassed him and found the inside of the net on Tuesday. Crawford saw the play unfold and was in position to stop the puck, but somewhere between the Wild’s Cal Clutterbuck shooting it and the lamp being lit, Crawford lost sight of the puck.
Crawford’s focus was undoubtedly shaken.
“It was definitely a battle,” Crawford said. “It’s not the way you want to start a game. I can’t remember what time it was on the clock when I got that shot. I wasn’t getting any work. I just tried to get myself in the game after that. I saw the release. I just kind of lost the puck halfway. Whatever, it’s over. It happened. I just tried to regroup as quick as possible.”
A season ago, the early goal might have foreshadowed a long, difficult game for Crawford. But this season, he learned to keep his focus and not let any one goal affect him. It stuck to that blueprint again on Tuesday.
Crawford bounced back after Clutterbuck’s goal and didn’t allow the Wild to beat him again over the game’s final 70-plus minutes. He stopped the Wild’s next 26 shots and helped the Blackhawks to a 2-1 overtime win in Game 1.
“I was able to regroup pretty good,” Crawford said. “The guys were behind me, encouraging me.”
The Blackhawks’ confidence in Crawford and his own confidence in himself appeared to grow as the game progressed. The Wild didn’t have as many shot attempts as the Blackhawks did (37-27), but the Wild compiled a lot of quality ones, and Crawford was there to deny each one.
In overtime, Wild forward Zach Parise had one of the game’s best attempts, a wide-open look from the slot. Crawford knocked the shot away with his blocker, and the puck skipped just past the left of the net.
“He’s got a quick release,” Crawford said. “I just tried to read it as good as I could and just barely got enough of it.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by the save and how Crawford handled the early adversity, but it was nothing Quenneville wasn’t accustomed to seeing in the regular season.
“I thought he stayed with it,” Quenneville said. “He had a key save right before our score. He made a big save with a guy in the slot. He seemed big and he got comfortable. I liked the response. That’s kind of the way he played all year.”