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Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford may be replaced by Ray Emery for Game 5, but team has bigger issues

Corey Crawford

Corey Crawford

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Updated: May 22, 2012 8:10AM

Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford looked stunned.

He didn’t know what to make of the odd goal Phoenix Coyotes forward Mikkel Boedker scored to beat the Hawks in overtime and put them in a do-or-die situation for Game 5 on Saturday at Arena.

He just knows he has to stop it. He knows it’s a routine save.

“Another tough one,” Crawford said after Game 4 on Thursday. “But we just can’t give up now. We’ve played some pretty good hockey ... and had some brutal luck.”

Perhaps in an effort to change that luck, coach Joel Quenneville is considering backup Ray Emery for the must-win matchup with the Hawks trailing 3-1 in the series. But that won’t mean much unless the Hawks clean up the mess in front of whoever’s in goal.

Everybody wants to blame the goaltending, and Crawford did allow two soft goals in consecutive overtimes. But what about all the stuff before that?

What about the Hawks’ stars being held off the scoresheet? The inept power play that has gone 1-for-13 in the series (7.7 percent) and destroyed their momentum? The lack of consistent traffic and those “ugly goals” they talk about so much at the other end?

What about the turnovers by the blue line or how some of the defensemen have faltered under duress? The Coyotes’ ability to restrict the Hawks at times with their system? Or the Hawks’ tendency to stick to the outside when attacking?

If the Hawks want to come back in this series like they did last postseason against the Vancouver Canucks, it’ll take more than just a switch in goal. There are a lot of other things the Hawks haven’t been able to do in the first four games.

“Goaltending is that position that seems to take most of the responsibility, especially in losing efforts,” center Jonathan Toews said. “But, really, what you don’t notice is those little things that [Crawford] does every play, every shift, those stops that he’s making to keep us in these tight games. Maybe he deserves a little more credit for that.”

The Hawks are pointing at their last-second heroics to force overtimes this series, and they’re looking at their run against the Canucks as something to draw upon. But Crawford was the big reason why they were able to do both.

“He had his best game last year in the playoffs when we were facing elimination in Game 7,” defenseman Duncan Keith said.

The Hawks were able to force overtime in Game 4 despite missing Marian Hossa. But the Coyotes also didn’t have Martin Hanzal, Lauri Korpikoski or Raffi Torres, three of their better forwards.

It’s naïve to think that the Hawks don’t have one stellar performance left in them. They have played well in the series, and Coyotes defenseman Adrian Aucoin said the Hawks have “outplayed” them.

The Hawks’ depth, skill and speed, however, have to fully come through.

But Phoenix’s system, predicated on forechecking, clogging the neutral zone, boxing out traffic, allowing Mike Smith to see shots and taking advantage of mistakes, appears to be frustrating the Hawks, even though some of the players might not want to admit it.

“You’ve got to have the mentality that patience is going to be OK in a game or in a series like this,” Quenneville said. “We still want urgency, but then again, we’ve got to make sure that there’s a purpose behind it and we don’t have to get it all back instantly.”

Quenneville made sure to say that “our top guys have to be better for us to be successful going forward.” Whether Crawford gets his chance to do that is still being determined.

“Obviously when you’re down 3-1, there’s room for improvement,” Keith said. “I think we can [all] be better.”

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