You have to admit, the Minnesota goaltending situation throughout the quarterfinal series against the Blackhawks was nothing short of wild.
First, all-star Niklas Backstrom, whose name coach Mike Yeo probably thought he’d be able to pencil in for the entire series, suffers a lower-body injury just minutes before Game 1 of the series against the Blackhawks was to begin.
Then his replacement, Josh Harding, who last fall was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, hops off the bench and ably fills in for Backstrom before, you guessed it, he gets hurt in Game 4.
Harding is replaced by a guy named Darcy Kuemper, who promptly gives up a goal to Patrick Sharp on the very first shot he faces.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Blackhawks goalie Henrik Karlsson, who replaced the injured Ray Emery as Corey Crawford’s backup for the series. “I felt bad for the kid, coming in and letting that first one in. As a goalie, you know how he feels.
“It must be really stressful in that group to have both of their top two goalies injured.”
Ah, but the goalie roulette didn’t end there for the Wild. Harding got the call to start Game 5 but only lasted until early in the second period. That’s when he was replaced by Kuemper … and, well, you know the drill by now.
“Hards stepped in and did a great job for us,” Yeo said. “I know that he doesn’t want to talk about it, but considering what he’s gone through and what he’s had to endure to be there for us, it was good for him.”
The Blackhawks’ goalie situation, by comparison, was downright boring: tell Crawford it’s his net and watch him go.
Watch him win four of five games to pick up his first Stanley Cup playoff series win. Watch him allow a total of 7 goals for the series. Watch him start the series-clincher with a handful of saves bordering on spectacular.
“It was a lot of hard work in this series,” Crawford said. “We thought we could have gone further the last couple of years so this is definitely a good start for us.”
“He was great tonight,” coach Joel Quenneville said, “and he was rock solid this whole series.”
How good was Crawford early on in Game 5? Consider this: Midway through the second period the big screen over the United Center ice beamed out an image of him.
The place erupted.
Then, less than a minute later, after back-to-back big body saves, the chants of “Corey, Corey” commenced.
He heard them.
“Twenty-two thousand people chanting your name? I think I caught a couple of seconds of that,” Crawford said with a smile. “It felt good to have our crowd behind me.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.