These days the silliest question to ask Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is: "Who's starting in goal?"
Quenneville is going to ride Corey Crawford as far as he can.
Crawford has started 17 games in a row and 29 of the last 33 and is one of the big reasons why the Hawks are still in the fight for fourth place in the Western Conference and home ice in the first round of the playoffs.
Even when the Hawks have played back-to-back games, and even when Crawford has admitted to fighting the puck a bit, Quenneville has come right back with the rookie goalie.
"He's a young kid who has grown here at a nice pace," Quenneville said. "He's really absorbing a lot of responsibility in important games here. He's won us some big games, and kept us in some big games.
"We like how competitive he is and we like way he developing. His upside is he'll be one of those guys who will be a No. 1 for a lot of years."
Crawford is hardly wearing down despite the heavy workload.
"I feel good," Crawford said. "You just have to make sure you take care of yourself and get your rest between games."
Crawford was terrific in Sunday's 2-1 win over the Coyotes, especially in the final minutes when he twice robbed Ray Whitney with the game on the line.
"I thought Crow was great making those big saves," defenseman Duncan Keith said. "It's the time of year where you need those saves."
Crawford isn't the only goalie being asked to put his team on his back down the stretch. Antti Niemi has started 28 games in a row for San Jose, Carolina's Cam Ward 30 of the last 31, and the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist 17 straight. Nashville's Pekka Rinne started 20 straight games before getting Sunday off.
Upon further review:
The Hawks liked everything about Sunday's critical win over the Coyotes.
"I thought we had a 'defense first' mentality, especially after the outing last Wednesday (in Dallas)," said defenseman Chris Campoli, whose power-play goal late in the third period was the game winner. "We wanted to bounce back and good teams find a way to do that, and we did that."
The Hawks were 2-for-2 on the power play with Duncan Keith also scoring.
"The power play has to be big for us," Jonathan Toews told reporters. "We know the power play and penalty kill are a big deal in the playoffs, and these games here are as close as it gets to playoff-style hockey."
Winger Ben Smith was returned to Rockford following Sunday's game.
Smith was recalled as a precaution against what happened in Dallas, when the Hawks had to play a man short when Bryan Bickell came down with the flu right before game time.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.