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updated: 5/5/2014 9:44 PM

Crawford's numbers adding up for Blackhawks

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  • Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, right, celebrates with Brandon Saad after Sunday's Game 2 victory over the Wild at the United Center.

      Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, right, celebrates with Brandon Saad after Sunday's Game 2 victory over the Wild at the United Center.
    Associated Press

 
 

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Bring up some of the crazy numbers surrounding this series heading into Game 3 on Tuesday night at the Xcel Energy Center and the answers from the combatants will be all over the place.

Like the fact that the Blackhawks have lost the first road game of a playoff series eight straight times dating to 2010.

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The responses range from …

"I had no idea," Duncan Keith said. "I never even heard of that stat before."

To …

"Aware of it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "You know, we've been pretty good on the road, but the first game in the other teams' building hasn't been very successful for us."

Or how about the fact that the Wild is 1-6 against the Hawks in the last seven playoff games between the teams?

From …

"Maybe (some of it is mental). That's part of it, and we have to overcome that for sure," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "I think we played these guys better in the regular season."

To …

"First of all I think this year and last year are completely different," Minnesota veteran Dany Heatley said. "You guys can run whatever numbers you want, but I think we believe we can beat this team, and it starts (Tuesday)."

But there is one number everyone can agree on: The Hawks lead this second-round series 2-0, and one of the biggest factors behind that has been the play of goalie Corey Crawford.

"He's been great," Michal Handzus said. "You go through last year in the playoffs, this year the same thing.

"In the regular season everybody kind of questioned him still and the first two (playoff) games he challenged himself … and he's been great."

On that, even the Wild grudgingly agree. "Yeah, he's playing well," Charlie Coyle said. "He's a good goalie."

Actually, really good.

Since dropping the first two games against St. Louis, Crawford, who's riding an NHL playoff-high, six-game winning streak, has a .951 save percentage.

For comparison's sake, his counterpart, Minnesota's Ilya Bryzgalov, sports an .830 postseason save percentage.

"He's so strong mentally and has improved so much the last couple of years, it's unbelievable," Marian Hossa said of Crawford. "It seems like every year he's just getting better and better.

"I think he's one of the top goaltenders in the league right now."

And though at times he seems underappreciated by some outside the organization, that's certainly not the case within the walls of the United Center.

"He's not underappreciated in our room," Keith said. "We appreciate everything he does. He's not only a great goaltender, but a leader in this room as well.

"It seemed like he had a lot of criticism there for a couple of years, and I think as a player you grow from that, and I think he has."

The Wild players know if they want to get back into this series, it begins with Tuesday night's crucial Game 3 (8 p.m.), and it begins with trying to solve Crawford.

"We've got to start from the beginning," Coyle said. "We've got to use every minute to our advantage. We have to fire pucks at him because he's a good goalie."

mspellman@dailyherald.com

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