NHL analyst: Corey Crawford is Blackhawks playoff MVP

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Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) gloves a shot by Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson (9) during the third period of Game 5 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Saturday, June 13, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. | AP Photo/John Raoux

NHL Network analyst Barry Melrose tabbed Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford as the player most deserving of this year’s Conn Smythe Trophy, which goes to the player judged most valuable during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Crawford, Melrose writes, doesn’t receive a great deal of respect, but he’s the reason the Blackhawks are leading the Lightning 3-2.

“People like to say it’s easy to play behind a team this good,” Melrose wrote. “But at the end of the night he wins, and this postseason he’s had to make several big saves to do it behind a defense that is thinner than it’s ever been. If Chicago ends up winning this series, he’ll be one of two full-time starters in the League to have won the Stanley Cup twice, along with the Los Angeles Kings’ Jonathan Quick. Eventually people have to realize there might be a reason.”

Crawford was an unlikely candidate for the trophy a few weeks ago. Coach Joel Quenneville benched him in favor of Scott Darling early in the postseason.

But Crawford won his job back and has proven himself a capable goalie in the Final. He’s kept the Lightning to one goal or less in all three Blackhawks wins and has made some remarkable saves along the way.

“When you look at the saves Crawford made late in the second period and early in the third period in Game 5 on Saturday, it was clear he buttoned down and gave the Blackhawks a chance,” Melrose wrote. “Right before Blackhawks forward Antoine Vermette’s game-winner, Crawford made two or three great saves that kept Game 5 tied. He was the reason the Blackhawks won that game. And with no clear-cut Conn Smythe Trophy candidate in this series, Crawford would be my pick if the Blackhawks win tonight.”

Some fans may argue that Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad are more deserving than Crawford.

And, of course, the Blackhawks need to win for any of this to matter.

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