Corey Crawford wins a second Stanley Cup the hard way — he earned it

SHARE Corey Crawford wins a second Stanley Cup the hard way — he earned it

Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford stops Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos on a breakaway in the second period of the Hawks’ 2-0 victory in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night at the United Center. The victory earned the Hawks their third Stanley Cup in the last six seasons. (Taso Katopodis/Getty Images)

Corey Crawford is a two-time Stanley Cup champion.

Deal with it.

“You can’t argue with that,” teammate Brandon Saad said after Crawford pitched a 2-0 shutout against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final to help the Blackhawks win second Cup championship with Crawford in goal.

“We know who he is. He gets bad press or whatever. They can say whatever they want. The group in here — we know what he does. He can steal games for us. He’s a big-time player. He anchors our team. And we love him. He’s a great goalie. Obviously the rings speak for themselves.”

Crawford’s shutout in Game 6 completed a playoff journey that was the Corey Crawford story in a nutshell — plenty of room for criticism in the beginning, but after getting back on his feet in the middle, he finished with a flourish.

The same goalie who allowed three goals in the first period of the playoff opener against Nashville and was benched after allowing six goals in Game 2 of that series allowed just two goals in the final three games against a team that led the NHL in scoring in the regular season.

Crawford stopped 80-of-82 shots in the final three games, including 37-of-37 in the third period as the Hawks won all three games to turn a 2-1 series deficit into their third Stanley Cup championship in six seasons.

“Unbelievable feeling. Unbelievable feeling,” an ecstatic Crawford said on the United Center ice after the game. “It’s hard to describe. You could never describe it.”

Crawford might never reach the glorified “elite” status that always seems to elude him. He plays on a team loaded with world-class talent, including two-time Norris Trophy Duncan Keith. But he’s hardly the accidental two-time Cup winner. On the contrary. The Hawks won in 2013 because of him — he should have won the Conn Smythe Trophy that year. And after the abominable start in Nashville, he was the difference-maker against the Lightning. Keith was a deserving Conn Smythe winner. But if the award was only for the Final, it would have gone to Crawford.

He’s not just the goalie. He’s their goalie.

“I wouldn’t trade him for anyone in the league,” teammate Marcus Kruger said. “In these big games, in the Final —I wouldn’t trade him for anyone. He’s such a competitor and gets better and better.”

“We’re not here if it weren’t for guys like that who put their own ego aside time and time again,” captain Jonathan Toews said. “He’s not here to be loved by the fans. He sticks it out no matter what.

“There’s a couple of games where the media, the fans put everything on his back. He absorbs it and keeps going and bounces back. We had some great help from Scotty Darling. But as a team we knew we had to get better and [Crawford]just got better and better as we got closer to this point.”

Crawford saved his best for last. In a scoreless game of a series that was tight from start to finish, he made every big save he had to. He stopped 25-of-25 shots in Game 6, including 14-of-14 shots in the third period.

“Everyone played great,” Crawford said. “You need the whole team to work hard and battle and win those battles along the walls, in front of the net, block shots. That’s what our team did.”

Crawford’s save on Steven Stamkos’ premier breakaway opportunity in a scoreless game in the second period was the signature moment of the game, if not the series.

Stamkos, who was second in the NHL in scoring in the regular season, but did not score in the Final, had enough time to stop and make his move — forehand-to-backhand-to-forehand —only to have Crawford wait and stop the puck with his left pad. In a scoreless game with the Cup to be won, it was the signature moment of the series.

“I just had to stay patient,” Crawford said. “I didn’t want to make the first move against him. Just try to get my pad out there and take away the long half of the net.”

Crawford’s strong finish still left him eighth among playoff goalies in save percentage (.924) and 10th in goals-against average (2.31). But we know better than to measure Crawford by those numbers. Don’t we?

“He was awesome. He was unbelievable — any word you can use to describe him,” Patrick Kane said. “He was special. He’s one of those guys that nothing fazes him. Nothing really bothers him — whether it’s a goal or a media column or things like that. He just keeps stopping pucks. he battles in the net. We’re lucky to have him.”

With help from an active defense, Crawford only got stronger after the Stamkos save to earn his name on the Cup for the second time. That’s a nice trump card to play the next time people wonder if “the Hawks can win a Stanley Cup with Corey Crawford in goal?”

“There’s nothing to say any more. I think we’re done talking about his performance,” defenseman Johnny Oduya said. “You win the Jennings Trophy twice. You win the Stanley Cup twice — I’m not going to answer any more questions about Corey Crawford.”

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