Crawford leads by his words, then actions

Corey Crawford stopped all 34 shots he faced Monday to help the Hawks trim their series deficit. Cal Sport Media/AP Images

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville and captain Jonathan Toews were proud of goaltender Corey Crawford even before he shut out the St. Louis Blues in Game 3 of the teams' first-round playoff series Monday.

Quenneville and Toews, two men who always put their team first, admired Crawford for pointing the finger at himself and saying he had to play for better for his team to win after the Blackhawks lost the first two games of the series due to late-third-period and overtime goals.

“I think it just sets an example for everyone in this room,” Toews said after the Blackhawks’ 2-0 victory Monday. “When you have guys with attitudes like that, that are very selfless, not thinking about themselves whether they’re being criticized or not. … He wants to win. That’s all that matters to him. That shows a lot to the rest of the guys in the room.”

Quenneville also put the onus on Crawford after two games, saying Sunday, “He said he needs to be better, and he needs to be better.” Quenneville also told Crawford on Sunday that he liked his netminder's accountability.

“I generally stay away from the goalies,” Quenneville said. “It wasn’t really a challenge. We were just like any player having a chat. I was basically commending him on accepting that responsibility, what he said.”

Crawford’s actions met his words Monday. He stopped all 34 shots the Blues put on him. It was his third career playoff shutout.

Crawford made some adjustments after the two games, and he felt those made a difference.

“I was a little bit lower in my stance,” Crawford said. “When they were rushing, I was more on my post -- when I felt I needed to move out instead of moving backwards. That was obviously an important game for us. That first period was big. The first goal was a key to the game.”

After Toews put the Blackhawks ahead 1-0 in the first period, the responsibility fell on Crawford’s shoulders to maintain the lead. He wouldn’t be given another goal until Marcus Kruger scored an empty-netter in the game’s final minute.

Just as the Blues did in Games 1 and 2, they made life difficult on Crawford in the final period of Game 3. The Blues had 29 total shot attempts in the third period, 11 of which ended up on net and at Crawford. His final save came with 56 seconds left, when he blocked a slap shot by Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.

Blackhawks forward Michal Handzus gave Crawford all the credit for getting Chicago out of Monday’s game with the win.

“I thought it was maybe our worst third period in those three games,” Handzus said. “They had the chances. We were kind of on our heels. [Crawford] played great and stepped up big time. Obviously we got to be better I think.”

Crawford’s focus was on nothing more than what was next. He wasn’t thinking big picture when it came to the series.

“I’m just going shot by shot,” Crawford said. “It’s all I could do the whole game was worry about the next one and focus on the next shot and stop that. I don’t want anything else going through my mind through that hockey game.”

And even though Crawford put Game 3 on his shoulders, he wasn’t feeling the weight.

“There is no pressure,” Crawford said. “I think it’s more reality. That was a really important game for us. It’s an exciting one, too, coming back in this building. Our fans are always loud throughout the year, and in the playoffs it almost doubles with intensity with our crowd.

“We were all excited and we had that calm, cool, confidence in this group. Our veterans, our leaders led the way throughout the whole day and the last couple of days just keeping calm and collected, and everyone else followed.”