Crawford hears the chants, wins series

CHICAGO -- He has heard chants of his name from a crowd before, but never as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks. So when the sold-out United Center began screaming "Cor-ey, Cor-ey," on Thursday night, Hawks netminder Corey Crawford took notice.

"Twenty-two thousand people chanting that?" Crawford said, smiling after the series-clinching 5-1 win over the Minnesota Wild. "Maybe caught a couple seconds of it. It felt good to have our crowd behind me."

That wasn't always the case for Crawford, but after a stellar regular season Crawford played even better in Round 1 of the postseason. The first seven minutes of Thursday's game illustrated his play for the series. He made a flurry of saves, some of them sprawled on his back. And it kept the Hawks in the contest.

"One of the most underrated goalies in the league in my opinion," forward Patrick Sharp said.

Of all starting goalies in the playoffs, Crawford leads with a goals-against average of 1.32 and save percentage of .950. That's a far cry from last postseason, when he ranked 17th and 16th in those categories en route to a 4-2 series loss to the Phoenix Coyotes. He was maligned by fans and blamed for the quick exit. A year later he has his first postseason series victory.

"It feels great," Crawford said. "It does feel really good right now."

And his teammates know how much it means to him. They were there for the boos, and now experienced the chants of his name along with him.

"That definitely felt good, not just for him but also for us," Marian Hossa said.

It was pointed out to Crawford that the same fans who booed him a year ago were probably cheering him on Thursday -- and he's just fine with it.

"That's professional sports," he said. "Fans want to see you at your best and they definitely hold us accountable at times here. We love our fans."

And they love him now too.