Corey Crawford’s shutout extends Blackhawks’ NHL record to 18
BY MARK LAZERUS firstname.lastname@example.org February 24, 2013 8:37PM
Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford gloves a shot in the first period as the Chicago Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets Sunday February 24, 2013 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: February 24, 2013 11:55PM
Early in the first period of Sunday night’s game, Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford found himself badly out of position as the puck fell to Blue Jackets center Derick Brassard in the high slot. The net was wide open, but Brassard’s hurried shot somehow sailed high — a nervous moment and a big break for Crawford, who worried that his timing might be a bit off after 12 days out with an injury.
It was the only break he’d need.
Crawford had 28 saves for his second shutout in three starts as the Hawks made Andrew Shaw’s second-period goal stand and extended their record season-opening point streak to 18 with a taut 1-0 victory over Columbus.
Crawford hadn’t played since a Feb. 12 overtime loss against Anaheim. But it was like he never left.
“Seems like things haven’t changed,” he said. “Everyone’s playing hard, making the right plays, not turning pucks over, and guys are coming back to help out our ‘D.’ Our ‘D’ has been so good this year, blocking shots and [getting] sticks in lanes. It’s just another solid victory for us.”
Indeed, the Hawks blocked 16 shots, with Niklas Hjalmarsson leading the way with six. Hjalmarsson also was highly effective in front of Crawford, clearing pucks out of the crease. Duncan Keith and Michal Rozsival blocked three shots apiece.
“It’s obviously big for the goalies to have some guys that have good sticks in front to clear rebounds and be in shooting lanes, and I think we did that good today,” Hjalmarsson said. “Obviously — we had a shutout.”
Shaw got the lone goal with 1:27 left in the second period, chipping in a beautiful backhanded centering pass from Bryan Bickell after Johnny Oduya saved the puck at the point and cycled it down. Shaw later took a spear in a most uncomfortable place from Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski — a retaliation for a cross-check Shaw delivered — but stayed in the game after a brief stint on the bench.
“I gave him a holler, and he put it in the perfect area,” Shaw said of Bickell’s pass.
The Hawks sit at a gaudy 15-0-3. But perhaps just as impressive, they’re 9-0-3 in one-goal games — including four straight wins in such a manner.
“Another solid win for us tonight,” captain Jonathan Toews said. “We showed we can win a tight game with a one-goal lead. And we’ll take that confidence and carry it into the next one.”
The next one comes in short order, Monday night against the Edmonton Oilers in the last game of the seven-game homestand. Hawks coach Joel Quenneville (who wouldn’t commit to a starting goaltender just yet) said he and his players remember all too well the “embarrassing” games the Hawks have had against the Oilers the last two seasons — including an 8-4 loss last season and a 7-4 loss the year before. And even with star forward Taylor Hall suspended for the game for a kneeing incident, the Hawks expect the very best from every team they face.
Because everyone wants to break the streak. Which is why the Hawks continue to be unsatisfied and continue to seek yet another level.
“I think so,” Quenneville said. “We should think that we’re not anywhere near as good as we can be — and have to be — to be effective.”