I'm so sick of hearing that Corey Crawford
and the Blackhawks "backed in" to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Do you really think a 26-year-old rookie with 255 AHL games under his belt cares at all how he got in?
During Chicago's regular-season finale against Detroit, Crawford looked stiff, nervous and uncomfortable. He was beat three times to the blocker side, possibly exposing a visible weakness in his game. That clearly didn't do him any favors heading into this series, as that shocking loss added fuel to every Luongo lover's fire.
Despite Crawford's weak play in that game, discrediting his ability to play with poise and focus is missing the point of what makes him a viable candidate for an upset. Not only is the element of surprise on his side, so too is the potential to steal games.
It's his ability to play with confidence regardless of the situation. That was the main reason why he won 33 games and posted a 2.30 goals-against average to begin with.
Now I'm not going to try to sway you to believe Crawford is as talented as Luongo. We all know who the superior goalie is and Ken clearly stated a few reasons why. I also happen to agree with him regarding Luongo's blue-collared approach to stopping the puck this season.
Speaking of a blue-collared approach -- Crawford definitely knows how to git 'er done.
He's the starter with a backup's work ethic. He's the one that asks his teammates at the end of practice if they want more shots. He's the one that stays on the ice late and gets to the rink early. He's the one that does whatever it takes to prove he's ready to play at his best. He's the one that treats every practice like a tryout and is always trying to impress his coach.
Crawford also wields the power of the one true X-factor in goaltending -- mental toughness.
Mental toughness kicks technique in the teeth and puts every goalie on equal terms. It throws stats and history out the window during the playoffs and forces both goalies to prove themselves during each and every moment.
Sure, maybe Crawford did get lucky by "backing in" to the playoffs. But that won't cause him to back down from this challenge.