Throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs, we’ll be spotlighting unsung heroes around the postseason on a weekly basis.
When the Chicago Blackhawks scored to win Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in triple overtime, Corey Crawford had played 112 minutes and 8 seconds of acrobatic playoff goaltending. He wasn’t sure who scored. Just that the game had finally ended, with a puck having crossed the goal line across the ice.
Did he have enough energy to celebrate?
“Oh, for sure, man,” he said after Game 1’s 4-3 Blackhawks win on Wednesday night.
“It was just,” he continued, rubbing his face with his hand, “so much hockey."
Crawford was the primary reason why the Blackhawks were still playing into a third overtime. He made 29 of his 51 saves for the game in the extra periods, with a little help from a post or two and strong defense in front of him.
Crawford seemed to get stronger as the game grew longer. But he was also eager for it to end.
“It was tiring, I’m not going to lie. But I kept telling myself to just keep making the next save, and that we would score on the next shot," he said.
The day after the marathon, his teammates were ready with praise for Crawford’s performance:
“Crow is so strong for us. He proved it in overtime,” said Marian Hossa, on an off-day for the Blackhawks and for the series.
“He made some really huge saves. I thought they had lots of odd-man rushes at the end. He was there for us. He won the game for us basically because could be long time over. So, you know, I think he's in his best form I ever saw him play.”
Said defenseman Brent Seabrook: “I thought his overtime periods were unbelievable. He gave us an opportunity to come back and get chances and keep us in the game.”
Crawford isn’t mentioned that often among the Blackhawks’ driving forces for success. Perhaps it’s because he shared time with Ray Emery during the season, or perhaps it’s because this is his first sustained success in the postseason. He’s still seen by many as the goalie the Blackhawks simply don’t want to have screw things up for them; the competent player whose main objective is simply not to be a liability. The Antti Niemi 2.0.
Then again, Niemi isn't seen that way anymore, as evidenced by his Vezina nod. The perception on Crawford might have changed too in the 52 minutes of extra time that saw the Blackhawks goalie equal, or outplay, Tuukka Rask.