For a few minutes, Crawford was going to do nothing. He was done focusing. He was done stopping shots. He was done answering questions. This was his time.
With a look of pure exhaustion, he sat deep in his stall with his back up against the wall and finally shut his mind and body down around 12:15 Thursday morning.
Playing 112 minutes, 8 seconds of hockey and stopping a career-high 51 shots in a 4-3 three-overtime win over the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals will do that to a person.
Coming out on the winning end of such an epic battle certainly helped Crawford find a way to relax afterward. He couldn’t have imagined feeling how he did and having lost.
“It’s probably the longest game I’ve ever played in, especially on a stage like this,” Crawford said. “It was so much fun to win this.”
Winning was all that drove Crawford from the beginning of the first overtime to the moment Andrew Shaw deflected the puck into the Bruins’ net at 12:08 of the third overtime to seal the victory for the Blackhawks. Crawford simply wasn’t going to let the Bruins get past him.
“I felt a little more zoned in, I think, in OT,” Crawford said. “You got to make the next save or it’s over. Just focus on everything. Make sure the next one doesn’t go in.”
“No pressure, just go out there and play,” he said. “We were playing with confidence. I think everyone was excited that they were going to be the guy to score it, except for me.”
The Bruins did have their share of quality chances at beating Crawford.
Late in the first overtime, Chris Kelly was along in the right circle and fired a shot at Crawford. Crawford made the save.
In the third minute of the second overtime, Tyler Seguin split two Blackhawks defensemen and went one-on-one with Crawford. Crawford made the save.
In the 15th minute of the second overtime, Torey Krug had a premium rebound chance from the left circle. Crawford made the save.
In the sixth minute of the third overtime, David Krejci fired a shot from the slot. Crawford made the save.
Crawford wasn’t sure if he had ever been more concentrated in his life than the three overtime periods. He made 29 saves after regulation.
“Yeah, maybe. I didn’t have a choice,” said Crawford, whose previous career high was 44 saves. “I had to play hard knowing the next play is it. You got make sure that’s not it.”
Seeing Crawford make save after save was nothing new for his teammates or coach. It’s not that the significance of Crawford’s saves have become diminished due to his consistency this season; it is the type of play the Blackhawks have come to expect from him.
“[Crawford] was great,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “He kept us in there. He made several all-alone plays and saves. Had some odd-man breaks, some dangerous looks. He was great.”
Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp hoped people would finally stop doubting Crawford.
“You can take the quotes from every playoff win,” Sharp said. “He's been big for us. He makes huge saves in timely situations. I think we can finally stop asking questions if he's a No. 1 guy.”