With less than 10 minutes left in the second period of Game 6 on Monday night, the Chicago Blackhawks were staring elimination straight in the face. They had just gone down 2-1 thanks to a floating knuckler shot off the stick of Joakim Andersson that had somehow eluded Corey Crawford’s catching glove, and all the momentum appeared to be heading toward the Detroit Red Wings.
Despite the 12 shots that Detroit was able to pile up through the rest of the period, Crawford did not give in. He stopped all of them, and after a series of impassioned speeches by various Blackhawks players in the locker room, the team came out firing in the third period. By the time Michael Frolik scored on a penalty shot goal, the Hawks had a 4-2 lead, and as shell-shocked Wings fans headed for the exits, the Blackhawks won Game 6 and sent the series back to Chicago for a do-or-die Game 7 on Wednesday night.
Ultimately, the 35-save performance by Crawford will be looked at as a solid effort by a goaltender, but what it really displayed was the mental fortitude that he has shown during times of adversity throughout these playoffs. In the past three Hawks games, two of which have been elimination games, Crawford has stopped 85 of 90 shots for a .944 save percentage. Within those games, he struggled with his rebound control at times, but when the pressure has been the highest, like it was in the second period as the Wings sought to put away the Hawks, he has been at his best.
He displayed that trait in the first-round series against the Minnesota Wild as well. In Game 1 of the series, Crawford gave up a bad goal to Cal Clutterbuck but ended up stopping every shot that came his way for the remaining 72 minutes of the contest before Bryan Bickell won it for the Hawks.
Crawford also pitched a shutout for the Hawks in Game 4 of the series in St. Paul, as the Hawks struggled early on offense and the Wild tried everything in the book to get a puck past Crawford and even up the series.
As they stand now, Crawford’s numbers in the postseason are even better than the ones he put up in the regular season. His Goals Against Average stands at 1.78, while his save percentage is at .935. When you contrast that to his performance last year against the Coyotes, when his GAA was nearly a goal higher and his save percentage was a meager .893, it’s easy to see why the players are so thrilled to be playing with him backstopping the team.
Here is what captain Jonathan Toews had to say after the Game 6 victory:
Toews on Crawford: "He’s been behind us every step of the way. Games we probably shouldn’t have won we did because of him." #Blackhawks
— Tracey Myers (@TramyersCSN) May 28, 2013
The love of Crawford that the team showed when he nearly dragged them into the second round of the playoffs in 2011 has apparently continued, and if the Hawks advance on Wednesday, their goalie is going to be a big part of the reason why.