Corey Crawford was the consummate professional throughout his benching in the first round of the playoffs. But now that he’s got the net back, he’s done talking about it.
“I think I’ve answered enough questions about that,” he said after Monday’s practice. “It’s done. It’s done. It’s done. We’re moving on. Me and Scotty [Darling] are both pushing each other. We want to push each other to be at our best and we’re just going to do the same thing we’ve done all year.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville reluctantly conceded Monday that Crawford — who replaced Darling in Game 6 against the Nashville Predators after sitting Games 3, 4 and 5 — would be his starting goalie in Game 1 against the Minnesota Wild later this week at the United Center (the schedule is still to be determined), ending the two-week-long goaltender controversy. For now, at least.
“Great response in a very important game for us,” Quenneville said of Crawford stopping all 13 shots he faced in Game 6 as the Hawks rallied from a 3-1 first-period deficit. “All of a sudden, it was a tight game and the game was on the line. He did everything he could. It was a great win for him and for us. He’s exiting the series on a real positive note. I’m sure it was not easy watching and doing everything he can to get that chance he got. He certainly put us in the position now. It’s his net, let’s go.”
There’s no controversy in the other net. Devan Dubnyk forced his way into Hart Trophy consideration as he carried the Wild from last place into the playoffs over the final three months of the season. The journeyman caught fire after being traded to Minnesota, going 27-9-2 with a .936 save percentage and 1.78 goals-against average. In the Wild’s first-round series victory over the top-seeded St. Louis Blues, Dubnyk had a .913 save percentage and 2.32 GAA.
“If he’s sees the puck he’s going to make it tough on you,” Quenneville said. “That’s the one thing we’ve got to do. We know when you play him, you don’t expect to score a lot of goals. But you want to make sure you don’t give up much.”
Meanwhile, Kris Versteeg found himself in the dreaded white sweater at Monday’s practice, meaning he’s currently out of the lineup. Bryan Bickell moved up to Versteeg’s spot on the second line, and Teuvo Teravainen re-entered the top four lines alongside Patrick Sharp and Antoine Vermette on the third line.
Quenneville said it was more about wanting to get Teravainen into the lineup than it was about wanting to get Versteeg out of the lineup.
Versteeg had one goal and no assists in the first round, with 15 shots on goal.
“Wherever I go, I try hard,” Versteeg said. “Whether it’s a white sweater, red sweater, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m just trying to play my game. If I’m in the lineup, I am. If I’m not, I’m not. It is what it is.”
Quenneville said he “didn’t mind” Versteeg’s play in the first round. Versteeg thought he played well.
“I thought it was good,” he said. “I tried to bring energy. You try to hit. Obviously, the offense wasn’t there. But I thought it was good. It was a good round. We won.”