DALLAS — Even though Corey Crawford still is working his way back to peak form after a long absence, there’s no one Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton trusts more in net for a big game.
The Hawks need a furious finish to have a chance in the wild-card race and believe Crawford has progressed in his first two weeks back from a concussion.
“His track record speaks for itself,” Colliton said of the two-time Stanley Cup winner. “If we’re going to go on a run here, he’s going to be the guy. I think he’s feeling better every day. I thought he looked really good in practice.”
It was expected that Crawford would need a few games to get going, but the Hawks can’t afford a prolonged transition at this point. He had an .865 save percentage and allowed 13 goals in his first three starts, two of which were victories.
Crawford stopped 26 of 27 shots Saturday in the Hawks’ 2-1 victory against the Stars in his best performance since returning. He saved the game by breaking up a two-on-one rush with 3:31 left by slapping the puck away.
Colliton has little choice but to count on Crawford. Cam Ward, who started 27 games, is out at least another week because of a knee injury. Ward had a .908 save percentage in his last 10 games.
The Hawks recalled rookie Collin Delia from Rockford on Tuesday to be Crawford’s backup. He has had an encouraging season overall but allowed 13 goals and had an .831 save percentage in three starts — he was pulled eight minutes into one of those — before being sent down last month.
Ample firepower not enough
The Hawks have issues, but offense isn’t one of them. They were No. 8 in the NHL in scoring heading into the game against the Stars and had three of the league’s top 26 goal-scorers.
Patrick Kane (40), Alex DeBrincat (37) and Jonathan Toews (29) are having potentially the best seasons of their careers, and their 106 goals make them the highest-scoring trio in the league. The Lightning are next at 104 from Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos.
The Hawks also have the league’s top foursome with Brandon Saad chipping in 21.
“We know we’re gonna score goals; we’re not worried about that,” Colliton said. “But when you go on the ice, let’s make sure that we’re ready to defend, ready to compete, because we can create offense out of that.
“That’s one thing our team really does well is create offense out of transition, so we want our guys to go on the ice with the mindset that, ‘We’re ready to defend,’ and if we do that, then we’re gonna be harder to beat.”
The Hawks were last in the league with 3.78 goals allowed and 11.3 high-danger scoring chances against per game. They were second-worst with an average of 35 shots on goal allowed.
Winger Drake Caggiula, who had been playing on the top line, remains in the concussion protocol and missed his fourth consecutive game. He did not travel to Dallas.
Caggiula suffered a concussion when Ducks winger Rickard Rakell smashed him face-first into the boards Feb. 27. Rakell was ejected, but a league spokesperson said the play was reviewed, and the NHL decided against a fine or suspension.