By Steve Silverman
Corey Crawford does not have to hide his head in shame any more.
A game after he was exposed as having a faulty glove hand, Crawford came back and shut down the vaunted Boston Bruins. Crawford and his teammates are on the brink of winning the Stanley Cup.
The Chicago Blackhawks took Game 5 at the United Center by a 3-1 margin and lead the series 3-2.
While Patrick Kane was the game’s No. 1 star and scored the two opening goals of the game by zipping through the Boston defense, it was left for Crawford and the Chicago defense to make a 2-0 lead hold up in the third period.
The Bruins, playing without Patrice Bergeron for most of the game after he suffered an apparent injury and he was taken to the hospital, mounted a bit of a comeback in the third period.
Defenseman Zdeno Chara launched a rocket of a slap shot that got by Crawford at the 3:40 mark of the third period. The Bruins were poised to mount another comeback, but Crawford was not about to let anything else get by him.
Crawford stopped 24 of the 25 shots he faced, and he did not waver a bit despite the torrent of criticism he faced after letting in five Bruins goals in Game 4.
Head coach Joel Quenneville was not surprised by Crawford’s performance. He had defended his goalie after he displayed a weakness at stopping shots fired to his glove hand.
“Corey’s a rock and that’s just what he’s been for us all year,” Quenneville said. “There’s no doubting him at all. We know he can come through and make the stops we need at the most important times. That’s why we are in this position right now.”
Crawford has taken all criticism he has faced in stride. “It’s not a big deal as far as I’m concerned,” Crawford said. “When you give up a few goals you are going to get criticized. But as long as my coaches and teammates believe in me, that’s the only thing I need.”
Crawford was quick to credit the Blackhawks’ defense for doing a stellar job of shutting down the Bruins attack.
He was able to handle most of the shots that came his way with ease. “I think it was a big effort by everyone to come back, play defensively, block shots, sacrifice our bodies to block those pucks and quickly get on to offense,” Crawford added. “Another good game, I think, moving the puck, moving our feet, and getting into the zone.”
The Blackhawks appeared to be having a rough go of it after losing Game 3 in Boston. However, they rebounded with a much-needed overtime win in Game 4 and they played perhaps their best all-around game of the series in Game 5.
They were able to accomplish that with captain Jonathan Toews on the bench for about half of the game. He got trucked by Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk in the second period and he did not return.
Quenneville said it was a hopeful sign that Toews stayed on the bench and did not have to go into the lockerroom, but he offered no assurances that Toews would be in the lineup for Game 6.
Both teams are hurting as they approach the home stretch of the series.
The Blackhawks go into Game 6 with a chance to win their second Stanley Cup in four years, and their goalie back in top form.
A hopeful city waits on pins and needles for the puck to drop Monday night at TD Garden.
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.