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Crawford backstops Blackhawks to another Cup

by Arpon Basu

CHICAGO -- The game was still scoreless early in the second period when one of the National Hockey League's premier offensive talents came in alone on the Chicago Blackhawks goal.

The way the Stanley Cup Final had gone to that point, a Steven Stamkos goal would have given the Tampa Bay Lightning a good chance to push the series to a decisive seventh game at home with a chance to win the Stanley Cup.

Stamkos came in quickly, slowed down, deked to his backhand, then his forehand and tried to tuck the puck inside the post.

But Corey Crawford was there with his pad, the puck stayed out, and it was the Blackhawks who won the Cup instead with a 2-0 victory in Game 6 of the best-of-7 series at United Center on Monday.

No matter how many accolades get handed out to his teammates, one thing never changes for the Blackhawks: Crawford is always there, and he's usually winning.

"He was awesome, he was unbelievable," Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane said after the game. "Pick any word you can use to describe him. He was special. He's one of those guys that nothing fazes him, nothing really bothers him, whether it's a goal or a media column or things like that. He just keeps stopping pucks, he battles in the net.

"We're lucky to have him."

Crawford made 25 saves for his second shutout of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and made 80 saves on 82 shots in three straight Blackhawks wins in Games 4, 5 and 6 to completely shut down the highest scoring team in the NHL during the regular season.

"It feels great, especially to win it in Chicago," Crawford said. "It means a lot to win the Stanley Cup. Everyone battle hard. Worked really hard, especially in the third period. Everyone was battling in our zone to get the puck out and win those fights along the walls. I mean, that's how you win hockey games, especially in third periods when everyone's working on it."

It would have been hard to imagine Crawford's playoffs ending in such a dominant way considering how poorly they began.

In the first round against the Nashville Predators, Crawford allowed three goals on 12 shots in his first start and was pulled after the first period, then gave up six goals on 35 shots in a 6-2 loss in Game 2. Coach Joel Quenneville turned to backup goalie Scott Darling to start the next four games, and it appeared Crawford had lost his net.

But since that point to the moment he raised the Stanley Cup above his head for the second time in three seasons, Crawford was as sharp as any goalie in the NHL.

Corey Crawford
Goalie - CHI
RECORD: 13-6
GAA: 2.31 | SVP: .924
He had a 13-5 record, a .933 save percentage and a 1.99 goals against average from the end of Game 2 against Nashville to the end of the playoffs.

"There's a couple of games where the media, the fans put everything on his back," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "He absorbs it and he keeps going and he bounces back. We tried as a team to help him out. We had some great help early on in the playoffs from Scotty Darling, but as a team we knew we had to be better and [Crawford] just got better and better as we got closer and closer to this point."

Crawford's name rarely is mentioned when a list of the NHL's top goalies is brought up, but his recent history might change that.

Any goalie who would make that list would trade places with Crawford in a second, because none of them, aside from Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings, can say they have won the Stanley Cup twice.

"You can't argue with that," Blackhawks forward Brandon Saad said. "He's a great goalie and obviously the rings speak for themselves."

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