Updated: June 30, 2014 12:53PM
Ten days ago, Corey Crawford was being tabbed a Conn Smythe Trophy contender by many after beating the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of the Western Conference final — the third consecutive game in which he surrendered only one goal.
But after allowing 13 goals in Games 2 through 4 — all losses — Crawford has been the target of heavy criticism. But the Blackhawks haven’t given him much help, and they feel responsible for their goalie’s struggles.
“Yeah, definitely,” defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said before Game 5 on Wednesday. “That’s tough for Crow. We haven’t been playing as well defensively this series, compared to the other two series. It’s more a reflection of how the whole team plays, and not just Crow. Especially on the penalty kill, we’ve been letting in way too many goals. We can make an overall better effort to play defense.”
Yes, the Kings scoring five power-play goals has contributed to Crawford’s dismal .841 save percentage over the three games. But at even strength, he was at just .873.
Where the Hawks have failed Crawford the most is in clearing defenders and rebounds from the crease. In Game 4 alone, Jeff Carter stood untouched in front of him on Jake Muzzin’s first-period goal, and Dwight King and Justin Williams went unchallenged in the crease on Drew Doughty’s second-period goal. Crawford never had a chance on either.
“They’ve done a good job of that the last few games, especially getting in front of him and not letting him see any pucks from point-blank range,” Patrick Kane said. “So I think if we eliminate those chances they have in the slot, they shouldn’t be able to get to the net front. We’ll put ourselves in better position of maybe keeping the puck out of our net.”
But while Crawford has been hung out to dry plenty of times, he hasn’t really bailed his teammates out much, either.
“[Crawford has] been all right,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’re going to need him to be really good.”