Blackhawks

Silverman: Forward-Thinking Crawford Wins Epic Goaltending Duel

Corey Crawford. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Corey Crawford. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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By Steve Silverman-

(CBS) We’re going to state the obvious here.

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford stole a victory in Game 1 for the home team.

The record shows that Crawford allowed three goals in the 4-3 triple overtime victory, and the second of those goals by Milan Lucic is one that he would like to have back. He had a clear view of that blast, but he was unable to make the glove save.

But Crawford did something that all top-level goaltenders have to do. He put the last shot behind him and he moved on to the next one. That allowed him to stop 51 of the 54 Bruins shots he faced Wednesday night.

It didn’t matter if he has let in a soft goal or he made a 10-bell save, as he did many times against the Bruins. Crawford just wanted to save the next puck that came his way.

Crawford was just a little bit better than Tuukka Rask, who managed to stop 59 of the 63 shots that the Blackhawks sent his way.

Rask, who had put on a virtuoso performance in the Bruins’ four-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final, could not be faulted for the double-deflection, game-winning goal scored by Andrew Shaw.

However, he did not have the same mindset as Crawford. Instead of looking forward, he was looking back at the critical goal scored by Dave Bolland in the third period.

The Bruins had taken a 3-1 lead on Patrice Bergeron’s third-period power play goal. Shortly after that, Bruins rookie Torey Krug tried to get the puck out of the Bruins zone by throwing a diagonal pass up the middle and failing to use the boards.

Andrew Shaw, a forechecking demon, knocked the pass down and carried it into the Bruins zone. Shaw fed a cherry pass to Dave Bolland, who rocketed a slap shot past Rask and the Blackhawks had much-needed life.

Rask said the Bruins had control of the game, but the game turned on a “terrible” turnover.

There was no doubt that Krug was the guilty party and there was no doubt that Rask hung him out to dry with his remarks.

For a team that relies on unity, it was a strange tone to take. It’s something that Crawford almost certainly would never do.

Every overtime victory the Blackhawks record in this playoff year has to be sweet redemption for Crawford. Many critics questioned him after he gave up three OT goals in last year’s first-round loss to the Phoenix Coyote. Two of those extra-period goals were butter soft.

This year, Crawford is 4-1 in overtime games. That’s the kind of extra-session performance that brings up memories of goalies like Patrick Roy and Ken Dryden, who always gave their teams the edge if the game went past 60 minutes.

TSN analyst Jamie McLennan, a former NHL goalie with the St. Louis Blues and several other team, gave Crawford his highest grade. “Exceptional in OT, made two huge saves on (David) Krejci and a left pad save on (Milan) Lucic to keep the Hawks alive. Seemed to get better as the game went on, was poised, in control and did not make mental errors.”

McLennan was supportive of Rask’s performance as well, claiming bad bounces led to the tying and winning goals.

But while it’s difficult to blame Rask for any of the goals the Blackhawks, he was more than willing to bus-toss a teammate for making a mistake.

Don’t be shocked if that attitude has ramifications as the Bruins and Blackhawks get deeper in the series.

steve silverman small Silverman: Forward Thinking Crawford Wins Epic Goaltending Duel

Steve Silverman

Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.