Goalie Corey Crawford finally getting overdue recognition

Written By BY MARK POTASH Staff Reporter Posted: 05/16/2014, 08:02pm

Corey Crawford, your table is almost ready.

Even with a Stanley Cup on his résumé, the Blackhawks’ starting goalie always seems to be fighting for recognition on a team loaded with stars such as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith.

Those five have combined for two Conn Smythe Trophies, one Selke Trophy, one Calder Trophy, one All-Star Game MVP award, 11 Olympic team berths and 13 All-Star Game appearances.

Crawford has half of a Jennings Trophy, a whole NHL ‘‘Second Star of the Week’’ award and a seven-year-old American Hockey League goalie-of-the-month award on his mantel. He never has been a Vezina Trophy finalist and finished eighth in the voting last season — one spot behind teammate Ray Emery.

But after a clutch performance in the Hawks’ series-clinching 2-1 overtime victory Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild, Crawford took another step toward escaping the shadows of his more heralded teammates and earning the leaguewide recognition that heretofore has eluded him.

Through two playoff rounds, Crawford leads the NHL with a 1.97 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage. What matters most to him, though, is his .667 winning percentage (8-4).

‘‘There’s a reason why those guys get talked about a lot,’’ Crawford said. ‘‘Kane and Toews have showed it so far in the playoffs. They’ve scored some big goals.

‘‘Our other guys, too. They’ve been really good for a long time in this league. . . . We’re a team, so for me it’s just talk. I just stay back there and try and stop pucks.’’

The Hawks are only halfway to a third Stanley Cup in five seasons, so there’s a long way to go. Crawford isn’t Ken Dryden or Patrick Roy, and he rates behind Tuukka Rask, Carey Price, Henrik Lundqvist and others among the NHL’s best goalies. But there’s something to be said for his ability to be at his best when the Hawks need him most.

‘‘The bigger the game, the bigger the challenge, he seems to rise to that occasion,’’ coach Joel Quenne-ville said. ‘‘When you get good goaltending in the playoffs and you expect it, it really helps your team. The confidence that the goalie portrays seems to extend right through your team and right through your defense to your forwards.’’

Despite Crawford’s reputation as a good goalie playing on a loaded team, his teammates seem to know that he has been carrying more than his share of the load recently.

‘‘It just seems like his job has gotten tougher over the last few years,’’ Toews said. ‘‘Even [with] him being a huge part of our Stanley Cup-winning team last year, it doesn’t seem like it’s getting easier for him.

‘‘But he keeps rising to challenges, picking his game up and improving in so many ways — especially mentally — to be able to handle that pressure.”

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash


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