Corey Crawford’s whirlwind 2020, from coronavirus to the bubble, ends in New Jersey
After contracting and surviving COVID-19, then backstopping the Blackhawks’ surprising playoff run, Crawford signed Friday with the Devils.
After goalie Corey Crawford stopped 48 shots Aug. 16 to keep the Blackhawks alive against the Golden Knights, wing Drake Caggiula raved about his performance.
‘‘He stood on his head, made a ton of big saves to give us a lot of momentum,’’ Caggiula said. ‘‘That’s why he’s won [Stanley] Cups before: He’s been there, he’s done it. He put the team on his back today.’’
Two months later, Caggiula no longer can say ‘‘we’’ when it comes to the Hawks. He wasn’t given a qualifying offer as a would-be restricted free agent and isn’t expected to return.
More hard to believe is that Crawford isn’t returning, either. The 35-year-old veteran signed a two-year contract Friday with the Devils after general manager Stan Bowman told him Thursday the Hawks wouldn’t bring him back.
The out-of-nowhere move caps Crawford’s whirlwind 2020.
It began with an equally out-of-nowhere bout with the coronavirus in June and July. Despite staying home for the vast majority of the spring, with a 2-year-old son and a pregnant wife to take care of, Crawford somehow contracted COVID-19.
‘‘I was just hoping to recover as quickly as possible, hearing that [for] some people the symptoms could last for months,’’ Crawford said July 26. ‘‘But it seemed to go by pretty quick with pretty much flulike symptoms.’’
Crawford had tests to ensure the virus hadn’t affected his lungs or heart, then managed to return for the Hawks’ final day of summer training camp and their flight to Edmonton, Alberta, for the NHL playoff bubble.
Once there, Crawford — with barely a week of preparation after four months off — enjoyed one of the most admirable playoff runs in his decorated career.
He backstopped the Hawks to a qualifying-round upset of the Oilers, overcoming lingering rust and fatigue from the virus recovery to start all four games in a seven-day span. His 43 saves in Game 4 on Aug. 7 set a career high for a playoff game that ended in regulation.
‘‘I would have liked to have more time to get ready, but I guess it was over with and I was starting to feel better at the right time,’’ Crawford said that night. ‘‘I was able to kind of hide back there until I started feeling comfortable. Still don’t think I’m at the top of my game, but it was definitely better today.’’
Crawford sparkled even more against the Knights, singlehandedly keeping the Hawks competitive.
With the Hawks facing a potential sweep in Game 4, Crawford’s 48 saves broke his recently set record for a postseason game that ended in regulation. He starred again in Game 5, making 35 saves, but it wasn’t enough.
That night — Aug. 18, 2020 — will go down as his final game in a Hawks sweater. That sentence will be weird for any Hawks fan to read, but it’s even weirder for Crawford.
In his season-ending interview with the media Aug. 25, Crawford seemed confident he would work out a new deal with the Hawks. He emphasized playing time would be a higher priority than salary, but he spent most of the time talking about his goals for the future.
Momentum toward a reunion never materialized, however.
Crawford told reporters during his first news conference Saturday with the Devils that the Hawks made only one contract offer of around $3 million and that little back-and-forth negotiating took place after that. He waited for a second offer that never came.
In the end, he said he was ‘‘devastated’’ to hear from Bowman that the Hawks were moving on.
‘‘It was pretty heartfelt, pretty emotional after that, talking to some of the players and obviously my family and stuff,’’ he told reporters.
NOTE: In an interview Sunday with The Athletic, captain Jonathan Toews said the Hawks’ recent move toward a rebuild never was communicated to him or the rest of the team’s veteran core.
‘‘A lot of this comes as a shock because it’s a completely different direction than we expected,’’ Toews said.