“That was definitely our best game of the series,” Wild forward Nino Niederreiter said, and that’s bad news for Minnesota. The Blackhawks’ 1-0 victory gave them a 3-0 series lead that feels as impenetrable as Corey Crawford was last night.
With the shutout, Crawford moves to 11-3 in his career against the Wild in the playoffs, bettering a record he once looked like he wouldn’t get the chance to extend. Or, put another way, it was just four games ago that Crawford looked like he’d ride out this Blackhawks postseason from the bench.
I’m less impressed by Crawford’s 30 saves last night than I am by the self-esteem required to come back so successfully from basically losing his job to an untested rookie after just two bad games. Goaltender is a solitary, cerebral position (that’s why so many of them are headcases), and Crawford, who’s often been taken for granted on a loaded Chicago roster, had plenty of time to contemplate life and failure as Scott Darling took the reins in the Nashville series. But Joel Quenneville went right back to Crawford when Darling had his own two-game slump, and Crawford has responded. Take away an eight-minute stretch in Game 1, and he’s allowed just one goal to the Wild.
And he’s looked spectacular while doing it. Minnesota, well in control of the flow of last night’s game, came again and again, only to be turned away each and every time.
Jonathan Toews says Crawford’s playing so well because he’s already hit rock bottom, and he’s got nothing left to fear.
“He didn’t worry about it,” Toews said. “I think he embraced, we all embraced, the fact Scotty stepped up and played great and helped us get through that series. The next chance he got, he was ready for it. I think he’s really built off that. I think for anyone, you maybe go through your worst-case scenario, you kind of feel like there’s nothing left to lose and you go out there and play loose and have fun, and I think he’s doing that right now.”
With Crawford getting better with every start, it’s feeling a little like 2013 again.