Coming into the regular season, the whispers of “repeat” and “dynasty” began to grow louder and louder as time rolled on, but it was not because of some glorious performance in net by Crawford. Sure he had a good season, but all the talk of the town and of the team moving into this year’s playoffs was about how if Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews can stay healthy, the Blackhawks would have a shot at being the first repeat Stanley Cup Champions in over 15 years. Luckily for the Chicago-faithful, they have been all that and more. However, take them out of the lineup and the Hawks still very well could be where they are right now. They just might not have done it making it look as easy as they did. That is where Corey Crawford and his bid for the Conn Smythe come in.
However, after Game Two’s third period meltdown, it may be time to throw all that kind of talk away now, because the WCF just turned into a series that may favor the Los Angeles Kings real fast. Goalies can have a bad game. Goalies can have a bad period- just ask the man sitting in net across the ice from Crawford about that. However, given Quick’s history, the Kings remained steadfast in their belief that he would find his groove and he has. The same confidence may not be found in the Chicago players with regards to Crawford.
If there ever was a time to bring up the importance of goaltending in the playoffs, now would be the time. Kane and Toews are having amazing postseasons right now, but so far, it had been Crawford’s Conn Smythe-worthy play that had remained most consistent. In a playoff that has featured the likes of goaltenders like Tuukka Rask, Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick, Carey Price and Semyon Varlamov, before the third period of Game Two, Corey Crawford had outplayed them all. Unfortunately, this one consistent strength for the Blackhawks may have just turned into a weakness quickly.
Chicago head coach, Joel Quinneville, pointed out that he had never seen a game “turn on a dime like that” before. Hopefully for Chicago, it was just the game and not the whole series that turned as the Hawks travel to L.A. Saturday night for Game Three.
Penalty trouble ultimately doomed Crawford and the Blackhawks in the third period, but some of the five unanswered goals given up by Crawford could have instead been momentum-changing stops like the one seen by Quick in the second period. On a two-on-one play, the Hawks had a chance to go up 3-0 on the Kings, but Quick made an improbable save on a shot by Brent Seabrook, a save that inevitably turned the whole game around.
Jonathan Quick can attest to what that feels like to let a game slip away in a feeling of helplessness, but like a former Conn Smythe winner can do, Quick has turned things around in hurry. However, Crawford is not Jonathan Quick and if the Blackhawks continue to lose the offensive advantage, get themselves into penalty trouble, and continue to make bonehead mistakes, the Kings will slaughter the goalie in net for Chicago. Glimpses of 2012 Corey Crawford are pouring back in the minds of Chicago fans right now, but will Crawford remain steadfast in his quest for a Conn Smythe or did the third period cause the floodgates open?
Shutting all of this negative talk down is simple for Crawford and the Blackhawks to do: Win. This series is far from over, Crawford is clearly not the only reason for their Game Two failure, and he may not need a Conn Smythe kind of night in net in order for the Hawks to win in L.A. But if they continue to struggle offensively and remain in penalty trouble, a Conn Smythe type of game from Crawford facing a much more improved offensive unit of the Kings will be the only thing that can save the Hawks in this series.
Commentary by Ryne Vyles
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