Rozner: Blackhawks' Crawford still searches for respect

  • Barry Rozner/brozner@dailyherald.comNo matter how many titles Corey Crawford helps the Blackhawks win, it won't be enough for some of his critics.

    Barry Rozner/brozner@dailyherald.comNo matter how many titles Corey Crawford helps the Blackhawks win, it won't be enough for some of his critics.

 
 
Updated 6/18/2015 1:28 PM

There is always a Josh McCown and there will always be those who write about him while trying to fire the starter.

It's a Chicago thing.

 

So after Corey Crawford stole Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, there were plenty of experts writing about Crawford.

And the same ones writing him off because of a bad goal in Game 2.

So Crawford did what he always does after that. He stuck it right in their hat.

Crawford was brilliant in Game 4 and the only reason the Blackhawks were tied at 2-2 with a chance to win the Stanley Cup.

He had stolen two games and the Lightning had missed their chance to slay the giant.

"I feel like we let something get away from us there," Tampa captain Steven Stamkos said. "But their goaltender was really good. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes you just get beat that way. Corey Crawford was great."

Stamkos didn't exactly say it, but his words and body language suggested that the Bolts knew they had missed a golden opportunity. The Hawks had started very slow in the series and Tampa was flying.

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But Crawford would not let it get away from the Hawks, and Tampa didn't put them away when they had the chance.

"Our goaltender won that game and we didn't do much to deserve it," Brad Richards said after Game 4. "We were outplayed and Corey won the game. It's really simple."

The Hawks awoke after that and Crawford was terrific the final two games as they won their third Stanley Cup in six seasons. Even with a Game 6 shutout, Crawford did not sniff the Conn Smythe again, often considered by the North American media to be one of the most average goalies ever to win a Cup.

For Crawford, it was his second title in three seasons. Only two years ago, he was the Hawks' best player in the postseason, but Crawford gets little respect outside of Chicago -- and often in Chicago -- and the Conn Smythe went to Patrick Kane in 2013.

"Everyone here knows he should have been MVP," Kane said this week. "He was great again for us this postseason and probably could have won it again."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Duncan Keith was certainly deserving of the trophy this time, but Crawford made quite a case for it with a spectacular Stanley Cup Final.

"I don't know what else he can do," Keith said. "He's been great for years here and we still have to answer all the same questions about him every series.

"Sometimes I wonder if people know what they're watching. (Crawford) has won a lot of games for us by himself. He did it in this series when we weren't very good."

Keith wasn't very good in Game 5 and no one even mentioned it. But it's the nature of goaltending that if Crawford sneezes the wrong direction, he gets a headline.

"Let's face it, we don't win the Cup if he doesn't steal a couple of these games for us," Keith said. "I don't know what else he has to do to answer the questions."

Two years ago against Boston, after Crawford had been stellar throughout the postseason, head coach Joel Quenneville had to answer questions during the Final about Crawford.

The Hawks had won 6-5 in overtime in Boston to tie the series at 2-2, and while Boston coach Claude Julian got no questions about losing goaltender Tuukka Rask, Quenneville was peppered by those wondering if he would make a change in net.

"We laughed about it in the room. It was a joke," captain Jonathan Toews said. "It just seems like no matter what he does, it's not good enough for some people.

"But it doesn't matter what goes on out there. The only thing that matters is what we think in here and we have total belief in him.

"He just proved it again. He's an elite NHL goaltender and one of the best in the world. We're lucky to have him. We feel great knowing he's there for us. We're happy he's our guy."

With the Hawks up against the cap and needing to move significant salary this summer, they are likely to try to trade Patrick Sharp ($5.9 million cap hit) and Bryan Bickell ($4 million), but failing that they might have to consider dealing Crawford.

His cap hit is a hefty $6 million, which might make it impossible anyway, but a two-time Cup champ would bolster the prospects of teams in desperate need of a goalie.

It seems far-fetched to even consider that now, so soon after another parade, but the Hawks have had to move players in the past and they will again this summer.

Yes, it is painful. After all, they still miss Andrew Ladd and that was five years ago.

If Crawford, as unlikely as it seems, ends up being one of those guys, maybe only then would those who don't appreciate him realize what they've lost.

Isn't it always that way?

brozner@dailyherald.com

• Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM.

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