Bench Corey Crawford? You’re yanking my chain
BY RICK TELANDER email@example.com June 20, 2013 11:17PM
Chicago Blackhawks Vs Toronto Maple Leafs 3rd-Period Action. Chicago Blackhawks goaltender No.50 Corey Crawford congratulates his teammate goaltender No.30 Ray Emery after the Blackhawks come from behind victory 5-4 over the Toronto Maple Leafs. February 29, 2012 I Scott Stewart~Sun-Times
NoS. 1 and 1a
Corey Crawford and Ray Emery’s statistics were almost identical this season. Crawford has stepped up his game in the playoffs (.931 save percentage, 1.86 goals-against average).
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Updated: June 21, 2013 2:38PM
So you leave Boston on a gorgeous almost-summer day and arrive back in Chicago to sunshine and good cheer, and then you hear this light buzz among Blackhawks fans:
Bench Corey Crawford.
Oh, my God.
You turn and nearly ask for a return ticket to Beantown.
Bench Corey Crawford.
Yeah, there ya go.
That’s the answer.
Yank the goalie who has led the Blackhawks down this thrilling path to a 2-2 tie in the Stanley Cup Final.
Because he gave up five goals in Game 4 and some of them your little brother could have stopped. Or your dog. Or one of Whitey Bulger’s corpses. Hell, you could have stopped them all by your corpulent self!
Is this what it’s come to?
Replacement goalie Ray Emery did a nice job filling in for Crawford at times this season. He’s a team guy. Has more tattoos than anybody but Derrick Rose. Solid.
But he hasn’t played in almost two months. He hasn’t gotten a whiff in the four series of this postseason.
He might break into a million little pieces if coach Joel Quenneville put him out there now.
Plus, Emery’s not as good as Crawford.
Plus, how shocking would it be to any human being — other than Crawford — to abruptly be the man most focused upon at a huge homecoming game, with so much in the balance, plus Jim Cornelison scaring you half to death with his bellowing, cornball national anthem, followed by foghorns and ‘‘Chelsea Dagger’’ chicken-dancing?
Insane. Dumbest thing I’ve heard of in some time.
Yes, Crawford gave up five goals in Game 4. But Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask gave up six!
The Hawks won, remember?
Why were 11 goals scored in that game when only five were scored in the previous two?
‘‘This felt like a run-and-gun kind of game,’’ the Bruins’ Johnny Boychuk said.
Imagine, the Blackhawks themselves had scored just five goals total in the first three Final games, had gone 129 minutes, more than two full games, without scoring at all, until Michal Handzus got a short-handed goal in the first period Wednesday.
‘‘I can’t explain it,’’ defenseman Duncan Keith said. ‘‘Sometimes hockey is just funny like that.’’
And wild, and thrilling.
‘‘Yeah, that was definitely an exciting game,’’ said Crawford himself post-win, agreeing with a reporter but sounding about as excited as a sedated sloth. ‘‘We had a lot of good things going for us.’’
Well, they did. Taser and Kaner scored, always good things. And Brent Seabrook nailed the game-winner in overtime, something that Crawford said got him ‘‘really pumped.’’
As it should have.
Here’s the thing about goaltending in the NHL: The puck always gets past the goalie on a score, but it isn’t always the goalie’s fault. Pucks go into the net after bouncing off skates, poles, pads. Opposing players block the goalies’ view, so half the time he’s near-blind. And often his own teammates block his view. Bounces can be crazy.
How about the goal that came after the Bruins’ Zdeno Chara mashed a long-range shot over the net, with the puck bouncing off the back wall and flying over the top of the net to fall perfectly into the crease? Whereupon the Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron knocked it in.
Should Crawford have eyes in the back of his helmet?
Should he have one of those ‘‘Exorcist’’-style rotating heads? (Minus the green spew, of course.)
‘‘We’re very comfortable with Corey,’’ said Coach Q in his quiet way, which you can pretty much count on as beng sincere. ‘‘Corey has been rock-solid all year for us, and when he’s got the ball, he’s been outstanding. He’s the biggest reason why we’re here today.’’
Hear that, folks?
You don’t even ponder yanking your biggest reason for a game like this fifth one. You know the Blackhawks are 11-2 at the United Center in these playoffs? That would be Crawford in net.
I can’t even imagine the deflating message for the kid if you benched him for this one. In fact, it’s so stupid, I can’t believe I have gotten so riled up on this, the near-longest sunshine-day of the year.
Critics are saying Crawford is soft to his glove-hand side. You think he doesn’t know that the Bruins know that and that he knows that they know it?
The Hawks’ defense knows it, too. They can steer shooters anywhere they want. Make it easy for Crow.
Crawford and Rask are prime candidates for the Conn Smythe Trophy. Did they get bad overnight?
‘‘No matter how many goals are going in,’’ Crawford said, ‘‘you gotta be able to pull through and win.’’
The Blackhawks did, didn’t they?