CHICAGO — For two days, Chicago was in a panic about Corey Crawford. After Saturday night’s performance, the city likely slept a lot easier.
After allowing five goals, all on his glove side, in Chicago’s 6-5 overtime victory in Game 4 on Wednesday night, Crawford was the target of a lot of criticism. But Crawford returned to form in Saturday’s 3-1 win, making 24 saves, including a crucial stop on a rebound opportunity by Jaromir Jagr with just over two minutes to go.
It was a very strong performance, one that more closely resembled the goalie who had posted a 1.86 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage heading into Game 5. Crawford now is 15-7 in these playoffs and 20-15 in his postseason career. His play up to this point is one of the main reasons Chicago is on the verge of its second Stanley Cup in three seasons.
The only goal Crawford allowed came on a rifle by Zdeno Chara early in the third period, which narrowed a 2-0 lead, but Crawford denied the Bruins the rest of the night.
The Blackhawks did not sense Crawford was overly concerned about Game 4, seeing the same goalie they have seen all along.
“I don’t think there was anything that changed his approach or his demeanor over the last couple of days,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “He looked forward to the game and had the same rapport and approach that we have seen all year long.”
Crawford was quick to defer praise to the team for denying the Bruins many good chances Saturday.
“It was the same story as it was all year,” he said. “We took away those passing lanes and just let me play the shot. There were some big blocks throughout the game.
“They’ve had my back the whole time. Our team is pretty tight and we are not going to let anything affect us.”
It was easy for Crawford to become a target for Chicago fans who, despite his stellar play this season, still remember some shaky goals in the first round of the 2012 playoffs against Phoenix that led to an early exit.Even though backup goalie Ray Emery hadn’t played since the end of the regular season, there were still cries for a switch.
But Crawford said he was not paying attention to the outside voices.
“I’m not really listening to it,” he said. “I have a job to do and whatever is being said is not going to affect what I am going to do on the ice.”
If Chicago is to get that final win, the Blackhawks goaltending lineage of Glenn Hall, Tony Esposito, and Ed Belfour may have a new member.