Blackhawks’ Corey Crawford shows he’s back in top form with Game 4 heroics

Any concerns about whether Crawford, after a summer of COVID-19 and little hockey preparation, can backstop the Hawks’ playoff run were quelled Friday.

SHARE Blackhawks’ Corey Crawford shows he’s back in top form with Game 4 heroics

Corey Crawford stole a win for the Blackhawks on Friday, making 43 saves to eliminate the Oilers.

AP Photos

Goalie Corey Crawford’s performance in the Blackhawks’ Game 4 victory against the Oilers was by no means beautiful, calming or effortless.

But it was spectacular anyway.

After a summer dominated by speculation about Crawford’s whereabouts, then concern about his health — after he revealed his bout with COVID-19 — then skepticism about his readiness for games, Crawford made it clear Friday he’s the same stellar goalie he always has been.

There’s no need for any more questions in net.

‘‘It was tough luck to get [coronavirus] right before we were starting camp,’’ a reflective Crawford said minutes after the Hawks eliminated the Oilers. ‘‘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. [I was] able to start practicing hard and get into the first game.

‘‘The guys played great, so I was able to kind of hide back there until I started feeling comfortable. I still don’t think I’m at the top of my game, but it was definitely better [in Game 4].’’

Crawford was subpar in the first three games of the series. He allowed 13 goals on 92 shots and appeared less confident than usual, hanging deeper in the crease than he normally does.

In Game 4, however, Crawford challenged shots at the top of the crease, moved quickly and agilely, used his pads and glove to cover the net laterally, stayed square to shots from all angles and battled through the rusty spots that he admitted remained.


Corey Crawford used a variety of tactics to stop the Oilers in Game 4.


Rebounds were clearly one of those rusty areas. After allowing only four rebounds in Games 1 and 2 combined, Crawford yielded six rebounds in Game 3 and a whopping 10 in Game 4. But he scrambled and managed to prevent any of those from turning into Oilers goals.

‘‘He’s a huge part of our team, and he played real well today,’’ wing Dominik Kubalik said Friday. ‘‘Obviously, [we] try to help him, but we gave up too many penalties today, so I’m really happy that he shut the door.’’

Shut the door he did, stopping the Oilers’ last 34 shots on goal. Twenty of those were in the third period, including some highlight-reel saves.

Crawford stretched with his left toe to stop Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, then stole a goal by snaring Zack Kassian’s elevated rebound shot with 8:01 left. He used his active stick to break up a centering pass from Nugent-Hopkins to Oscar Klefbom — who had three or four decent chances in the period — with 4:25 left. He made a great read to center himself for a shot by Nugent-Hopkins from the low slot with 2:40 left. Lastly, he robbed Leon Draisaitl racing down the right wing with 2:15 left.

Crawford’s superb effort made his overall stats for the series respectable.

Looking at even-strength situations only — the Oilers’ historically good power play created some skewed numbers — Crawford posted a .905 save percentage. Against high-danger chances, his save percentage was .865.

And he did that despite the matchup of shoddy defense against deadly offense that took place around him. The Oilers’ average shot distance was 29 feet, the closest distance faced by any goalie in the playoffs.

The Hawks hope Crawford can improve those numbers as the postseason rolls on, but his performance Friday quelled any concerns about his ability to do so.

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