Jimmy Howard needed a win.
After missing the last eight games for the Red Wings with a broken finger, Howard saw opportunity to reclaim his net, and re-establish his dominance.
Joey MacDonald had done well in relief of the injured Howard, but he wasn’t the reliable goalie the Wings had been used to all season.
Corey Crawford needed a win.
Crawford was on the verge of breaking out of a personal slump. In Chicago’s nine-game winless streak, he had done nothing to prove he was worthy of being the Blackhawks number one goalie, and as trade talk loomed, Crawford’s play, and confidence entered freefall.
So in the midst of the three-game winning streak — with game-deciding saves galore — Crawford couldn’t afford to allow a bad goal past him.
In Chicago’s 2-1 victory over Detroit it was Jimmy Howard who earned the third star of the game, but it was Crawford who skated away with the win.
It wasn’t as though one net minder out player — Howard recorded 27 saves, while Crawford registered 31 — both had to make big saves early and often.
Howard stymied Michael Frolik on an early breakaway, and Patrick Kane didn’t fare too much better on his two odd-man breaks.
As for Crawford, point blank shots, which were present all night, were met with kneejerk saves, as the defensive breakdowns that paved the road for the Hawks losing streaks continued to plague Chicago.
Even when it came to the game-winning goal it wasn’t as if Howard did anything wrong.
Three Hawks swarmed the net as a shot from the high slot sent Howard sprawling. As the Detroit defenders desperately tried to clear the crease the puck found its way to Marcus Kruger, who tapped it in with ease for his seventh goal of the year.
Howard will have time to return to form, but for Crawford there is almost no room for error — and he played like it.
Now a four-game win streak is building confidence and momentum for not just Crawford, but the entire team, and as the Hawks look to extend this new streak on Thursday against the Dallas Stars it will again come down to the play of Crawford.
If the sophomore goalie they call “Crow” can continue to heat up, he may very well be on his way to catching fire, and with only 21 games remaining in the regular season, now wouldn’t be such a bad time to do so.
Notes: Jimmy Hayes recorded his recorded his fifth goal this season in the second period. Valtteri Fillppula notched his seventh goal in the first period on the power play snapping Chicago’s streak of 14 straight penalty kills.