Blackhawks’ Corey Crawford stifles Blue Jackets 4-1 in ‘vintage’ performance
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COLUMBUS, Ohio — On another night, against another goaltender, Anthony Duclair might’ve had himself a pair of goals. But not Saturday against the Blackhawks’ Corey Crawford, who was in full command in a 4-1 victory over the Blue Jackets.
While Duclair had a cup of coffee with the Hawks last season, Crawford was early in a recovery from a concussion that would turn into a nearly 10-month odyssey. A healthy, active Crawford surely would’ve stoned Duclair at the net in practice a time or 20.
Crawford made up for it in the Hawks’ first regulation victory of the season. He stopped Duclair cold on a first-period breakaway. In the save of the night, he traversed the width of the goal in a blink of an eye to get a stick on Duclair’s shot from the doorstep off the type of feed that usually ends up with a glowing lamp.
But enough about Duclair. Crawford — starting a second consecutive game in a comeback that could go a long way toward defining this Hawks season — stopped 37 shots in all, several of the saves remarkable. It was the 33-year-old’s first victory since Dec. 17 against the Wild.
“It was all Crow,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “It was nice to see him play like that. That was vintage Crow.”
The Hawks were outshot 28-15 through two periods before erupting with three goals over the final 12:17. Marcus Kruger redirected a shot off his skate for the go-ahead goal, and Patrick Kane made it 3-1 with a snipe off a picture-perfect pass from Brent Seabrook.
A Kane empty-netter made the final score look comfortable, but it was nothing but action in Crawford’s face for most of the night. The Hawks could’ve — should’ve — faced a deficit heading into the final period, but Crawford nipped that in the bud.
When he shot out of a crouch to stop Pierre-Luc Dubois’ straight-on blast in the second period, it started to feel like there wasn’t going to be anything the Blue Jackets might throw at Crawford that he wouldn’t be able to handle.
“He kept us in that one tonight,” Kane said. “We didn’t have the best first two periods, but he was standing on his head for us.”
Crawford continues to downplay his comeback. Hey, what’s the big deal about missing 52 regular-season games? Ask him what it means to him to be playing again, and he’ll tell you the defensemen in front of him did a good job mucking things up for the opposing offense.
Who better than a goalie to deflect such a question, anyway?
“Crow’s probably under the radar when you look at the top goalies in the game,” Quenneville said. “But we value his contribution to [our] success, keeping us in games, winning games for us. But he’s as good as there is in the game.”
He was on this night. Is it premature to believe a performance like Saturday’s means Crawford is back in top form? Probably, though he didn’t seem to understand why that would even be a question in the first place.
“We worked off the ice and on the ice, too,” he said. “So it’s fine.”
Crawford isn’t the largest goalie in the league, but who’s measuring?
“It seems like he’s just so big and wide in the net,” Kane said. “He just kind of blocks everything.”
Not everything. There’ll be good nights ahead and bad ones. But Crawford was indeed big Saturday. It was quite as good sign.