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updated: 4/23/2011 8:56 PM

Hawks expect Luongo to bounce back in big way

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  • Vancouver's Roberto Luongo takes off his mask on the bench after being replaced by backup goalie Cory Schneider during the second period of Game 5 of the Stanley Cup playoffs first-round series against the Blackhawks.

      Vancouver's Roberto Luongo takes off his mask on the bench after being replaced by backup goalie Cory Schneider during the second period of Game 5 of the Stanley Cup playoffs first-round series against the Blackhawks.
    Associated Press

  • Vancouver Canucks' Roberto Luongo, right, leaves the ice and is replaced by Cory Schneider, left, during the second period against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 5 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs first-round series in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Thursday, April 21, 2011. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck)

      Vancouver Canucks' Roberto Luongo, right, leaves the ice and is replaced by Cory Schneider, left, during the second period against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 5 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs first-round series in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Thursday, April 21, 2011. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck)

 

At least one of the Blackhawks is expecting embattled Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo to bounce back with a strong effort tonight in Game 6 at the United Center.

That would be Hawks goaltender Corey Crawford, who has seen the 10 goals allowed by Luongo in the last two games from the other end and wonders if the media and fan criticism directed at the Vancouver veteran has been warranted.

"You know what? We've scored some pretty nice goals," Crawford said Saturday. "We're getting traffic in front of him and making it tough on him. Some of the other ones, we're making some nice plays where it's bang-bang across the ice passes for one-timers. It's not like we're taking wristers from the blue line where he's seeing everything.

"Obviously it's tough on him there. He's the greatest guy in the world and after two games everyone's on him."

Patrick Kane couldn't think of one goal Luongo allowed that was his fault.

"Sometimes when you have breakdowns defensively it's easy to blame the goalie," Kane said.

Outwardly, Luongo has tried to park the last two games that saw him pulled from 7-2 and 5-0 losses. Yet these are the Hawks, the team that has tormented him for the last two playoffs and threatening to make it three straight years if they can overcome what is still a 3-2 hole and win the series.

Hawks center Ryan Johnson played with the Canucks for two years and says Luongo's strong mental makeup is real.

"Roberto works as hard as anybody does in this game for where he's at and what he's accomplished," Johnson said. "He doesn't let off the gas at all as far as his preparation, and he's got a lot of pride in himself and his organization.

"We expect him to come out with one of his best so we just need to continue to try to do the things we've been doing."

Crawford is coming off his two best games of the playoffs, particularly Thursday's 5-0 shutout at Rogers Arena where his 36 saves got lost in the Hawks' offensive explosion.

Crawford's value to the Hawks as a rookie is appreciated even more when you look at what's happening in Philadelphia, where the Flyers are down 3-2 to Buffalo in that series and already have gone through three goalies, including Sergei Bobrovsky, their touted rookie from the regular season.

Even in the three games the Hawks lost to the Canucks to open the series, goaltending wasn't an issue.

"I think every game he's been solid," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "He's coming off a remarkable effort in his last game and basically it's the way he's played down the stretch in all these big games. He just handles the next situation and prepares himself to welcome the next challenge. You've got to commend him for not going through this, to handle it the way he has."

Crawford actually has a connection to Luongo. They share the same agent and have worked together at the same goalie school during the off-season.

While Crawford doesn't pretend to know Luongo that well, he does know enough about him to expect nothing but the best from the Vezina Trophy finalist.

"I see him in the summer and talk to him, but it's really hard to get a good feel for what kind of guy he is because I don't know him that well," Crawford said. "But he's played in this league for so long and been good for so long, this isn't the first time he's been pulled and I'm sure it will happen again.

"Obviously we expect him to bounce back and play hard, but we have to keep making it hard on him, keep going to the net and keep making those plays that we have."

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