Chicago Blackhawks Flourishing in the Year of The Crow
It’s the call every Chicago Blackhawks fan makes when goalie Corey Crawford comes up with a big save. It’s a nickname his teammates gave him.
It’s also what every critic—myself included—has been eating steadily as the season’s progressed.
Crawford’s 3-0 shutout of the Minnesota Wild last night gave the Hawks a comfortable 3-1 lead in the series and provided fans with an adult dose of confidence. He now leads all playoff goalies in Goals Against Average (1.39), Save Percentage (.949), and is the only goalie who can boast that his team has yet to give up a power play goal.
What’s more, he’s accomplished this “out on an island,” knowing his backup, Ray Emery, has been on the shelf for the last two weeks with a lower-body injury. Is this the same guy who threw up all over himself in the playoffs last year versus the Phoenix Coyotes?
Me thinks not.
“We just go about our business. We’ve had that calm, collective confidence all year long,” said Crawford last night. “I think we definitely showed that tonight.”
When Crow is using words like “calm” and “collective confidence” in playoff post-game interviews, other teams’ coaches should be terrified. After all the knock on this guy from the start was that he was a bit of a head case and that he tended to get too worked up when things weren’t going his way.
Well so much for that.
Even worse for opponents is the smothering defense which is making his job so easy that analysts are now using adjectives like “simple” to describe postseason shutouts. Crawford was perfect on the 25 shots he faced last night thanks to 26 blocked shots by his defensemen. Many of these came on the power play and Crow was quick to acknowledge as much.
“Our PK definitely won us the game tonight,” Crawford said. “So many power play situations for them and we just kept our cool, we didn’t freak out at the refs or lose it on each other—we just stuck with it, played hard. Obviously we came through.”
Indeed you did, sir. Indeed you did.
So let’s just assume—and yes I’m familiar with what happens when one assumes anything—that the Hawks move on to the second round: who’s on deck?
Well thanks to the NHL’s system of re-seeding so that the highest seed always plays the lowest, Chicago is likely to play the sixth seed San Jose Sharks in the next round unless the seventh seed Detroit Red Wings can take two of the final three from the Anaheim Ducks.
Either way I’ll take Crow and heavy odds in the next round. He beat the Sharks in his only appearance against them this season, and in the event that the evil Red Wings upset the Ducks—which would be phenomenal luck for the Hawks considering their struggles against Anaheim—they’d be forced to test that luck versus a guy who gave up only five goals against them en route to a 4-0 season sweep.
So bring on the Red Wings. Or the Sharks. It doesn’t really matter.
This is the year of the crow.