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Heading into the last week of what has been a stunning season for the Chicago Blackhawks, goaltender Corey Crawford talks to ESPNNewYork.com's Katie Strang about that unforgettable streak, the best D corps in the league and whether his team enters the postseason as Cup favorites in this week's edition of the New York Minute.
STRANG: Even after the streak ended and you guys locked up the West, you've been able to keep the foot on the gas. What has fueled the team?
CRAWFORD: It's been a pretty good year for us, even after that streak we had. I think our goal is to have home ice throughout the playoffs, so we're really focused on finishing No. 1 and getting that going into the playoffs. It seems like every game, everyone brings it. We need everyone to be at their best, and it's been like that all year. Every single person on the team has come prepared, focused and ready to play.
STRANG: Did you come into the season feeling like you personally had something to prove?
CRAWFORD: There's always going to be some critics. Really, it's just taking it game by game. I didn't want to get ahead of myself and think I needed to do amazing things or else I wouldn't be here. Really, I just made sure I was focused game by game. It turns out well for me and not just that; like I said before, everyone has been playing well. Everyone's been contributing defensively. Really, it's been the whole team that's been able to contribute for myself.
STRANG: What can you say about the tandem you and Ray Emery formed this season?
CRAWFORD: It's been great. We have a good relationship off the ice. He's a fun guy, easy guy to get along with. We joke around, we laugh a lot in the dressing room together, but also we're competitive on the ice and it's something where we both feed off each other's performance and we both push each other to be at our best. A lot of encouragement, too. We're both happy when the other guy does well. It gets us to be at our best and be hungry for the next time we step on the ice. It's just been great playing off each other this year.
STRANG: Would you be OK with platooning in the playoffs?
CRAWFORD: The way we've done it so far, we work hard in practice, prepare ourselves like we're going to play [and] we just wait for the call. Whoever gets the call will be prepared and focused. We just take it game by game. We don't want to look too far ahead right now. Either way, whatever happens, both guys will be prepared. I don't think it's something we're thinking about right now. We're just focused on finishing the season strong and whatever comes, comes.
STRANG: How much has the team's defense helped out in front of you this season? Also, how about the team's puck possession?
CRAWFORD: Just from our team having the puck most of the game, that'll take away a lot of other teams' chances. As far as our defensemen, they've been outstanding this year, probably the best unit in the league in taking away opportunities or getting the puck quickly out of the zone to our forwards so we can get on the attack, all those things. Our [defense] has done all those things, block shots, take away passing lanes; they've been unreal.
STRANG: Now that you have some distance from the streak and time to reflect, what stands out most about it?
CRAWFORD: It's kind of a blur. The whole thing was really fun. Right toward the middle of it, when we started to get a lot of attention, our fans were just crazy. They're always loud, but I think when we started getting more attention during the middle of it, it was just a special time to be playing hockey. It was so much fun. [It's] tough to think of one moment. There were so many great times when we came back in games or won games in overtime or even at the end of the third period, we'd win a game. The whole thing was just a lot of fun.
STRANG: When you guys were getting all that attention, did more people come out of the woodwork? Were you stopped on the street? Did you have autograph seekers at restaurants?
CRAWFORD: [laughing] Maybe if your name is [Jonathan] Toews or [Patrick] Kane, you get stopped. Maybe once in a while [for me]. This city has always been good to us. Our fans are unbelievable. They're so good to us and it's just a great place to play hockey.
STRANG: Does that streak and your spot atop the standings make you guys the favorite to win the Cup?
CRAWFORD: I don't know. It's tough to say. Obviously, we've had a strong season and that's our ultimate goal -- to win the Cup -- but we can't just think because we went on a streak it's going to come easy. We have to be prepared and work hard like we've done all year.