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Blackhawks feel responsible for Crawford’s struggles
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 straight game in which he surrendered just one goal.
Now, after allowing 13 goals in Games 2 through 4 — all losses — Crawford’s 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,” Hawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “That’s tough for Crow. We haven’t been playing as well defensively this series, compared to the other two series. I think 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. I think 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 past three games. But at even strength, he’s at just .873. For the entire postseason, he’s at .918. 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. Both he and the team in front of him will need to be significantly better if the Hawks hope to stave off elimination in tonight’s Game 5 at the United Center.
“He’s been all right,” Joel Quenneville said of Crawford. “We’re going to need him to be really good.”
As for a TMZ report that Crawford was being investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department for squirting a fan in the face with a water bottle during Game 4 (the LAPD told CBS2 Chicago that Crawford was not under investigation), Quenneville was unconcerned.
“I just heard about it on the way over [to the press conference],” Quenneville said on Wednesday. “First I heard of it, so I’m not aware of the situation other than what you just said and what was mentioned about it. I’m not worried about it right now, worried about the game, as Corey will.”