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Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Belief in Crawford pays off for Hawks

By Scott Powers

Corey Crawford
Corey Crawford stopped 23 of 25 shots on goal in Game 6.
BOSTON -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane didn't feel exactly worthy when he accepted the Conn Smythe Trophy on Monday night.

There was someone else Kane believes really deserved it -- Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford.

"I think Crow got snubbed, to be honest with you," Kane said on NBC after the Blackhawks clinched the Stanley Cup with a 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals.

A season ago, that statement by Kane seemed unfathomable. Crawford's name was being associated with obscenities and negativity when the Blackhawks' playoff run ended in 2012. Many fans and critics blamed Crawford for the Blackhawks first-round departure last season and would have rejoiced if Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman had gone in a different direction for a No. 1 goaltender this season.

Bowman stood by Crawford, and the Blackhawks were rewarded for that in the way of the Stanley Cup on Monday.

"We never doubted him," Bowman said on the ice afterward. "That's all that matters. The guys in the room, the coaches, the management, we've been big fans of his. It's nice to see him finally silence the critics. He's an incredible goalie, and it's really hard to win the Stanley Cup, and he just did that."

Crawford proved his worth countless times to the Blackhawks prior to Monday, but they were pleased to have him do it again in Game 6.

While the Bruins put shot after shot onto the net and made the rest of the Blackhawks appear invisible in the first period of Game 6, Crawford stayed strong. The Bruins took 32 shots, 12 of them on net, and Crawford allowed just one goal to keep the Blackhawks' hopes alive heading into the first intermission.

"He's been there for us every game, good and bad," Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival said. "Today, he was definitely the key. We had a chance to win it because in the first period they came hard at us, had a bunch of chances, and he was there for us. He made key saves. We got through the first period."

Crawford finished with 23 saves on 25 shots. It was the 16th time in 23 playoff games this season Crawford allowed two or fewer goals. He gave up four or more goals just twice and three goals five times. Crawford had a 16-7 record with a 1.84 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville dealt with questions about Crawford's ability all season, even in the Stanley Cup finals when Crawford allowed five goals in a win in Game 4.

Quenneville was pleased to answer a different sort of question about Crawford on Monday night.

"The scrutiny that he was under at the end of last year going into the season, if he was capable of getting through the regular season, let alone the playoffs," Quenneville said. "His preparation going into the year was in the right place. I thought his consistency was great. I thought the support and challenging that Ray (Emery) provided, as well, was definitely in the right place, as well. I think there was confidence no matter who was in, they were going to be consistent.

"I got a question the other day which was kind of surprising: Who's going to play your next game? It was obvious who's playing our next game because he was the reason we were playing the next game. It was that type of year for him, and I'm very happy for him."

Even if the media favored Kane over Crawford, when it came to voting for the Conn Smythe Trophy, it didn't change the value the Blackhawks put on Crawford.

"He's definitely the key component, the key piece of the puzzle to this championship team," Rozsival said.