It’s getting feisty between the Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks in Game 2.
Even Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford decided to get in on the action, as he tried to throw a hit on Rickard Rakell outside of his crease after a whistle. The hit maybe didn’t go as planned. Crawford fell and a scrum ensued. No penalties were handed out.
Seconds before that, Ducks forward Jiri Sekac busted out the toe-drag move for a scoring chance and then threw a massive open-ice hit on Antoine Vermette.
So, Corey Crawford didn’t get off to the best start in these Stanley Cup playoffs.
— He was pulled after the first period of Game 1 against Nashville in the opening round.
— He started Game 2 and gave up six goals on 35 shots.
— He was “a little pissed off at first” that Scott Darling took over the starting job in that first-round series.
But it’s not always about how you start. Since taking back the No. 1 goalie job at the end of the Nashville series, Crawford has been spectacular for the Chicago Blackhawks.
“I never necessarily get low, confidence-wise, about my game,” Crawford told NHL.com.
“I was a little ticked off, I guess you could say, that I wasn’t in there. But I was still ready to get back in. I was working hard, and I mean … things happen. Sometimes things don’t go your way, and you can’t really let your emotions affect your play after that.”
In a four-game sweep of the Minnesota Wild in the second round, Crawford allowed only seven goals. Two of those came during a frantic stretch in the final three minutes, when the Wild tried desperately to send Game 4 to overtime and possibly extend the series.
“I don’t think I was completely awful the first [series],” said Crawford. “It just took a little bit to get into it. I was out quick, lost the timing and when I came back, I got it back pretty quick. I’m feeling pretty good right now.”
The Minnesota Wild went into this series hoping this year would be different. After being eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2013 and 2014 playoffs, Minnesota certainly seemed to be in a better position.
The Wild finished the season with a 28-9-3 run. They beat the Central Division winning St. Louis Blues in six games. They had more experience this time around. They weren’t dealing with goaltending injuries. Surely this year would be different.
Chicago forwards Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Sharp played at their typical high level while goaltender Corey Crawford successfully put his rough first round behind him. At the other end of the ice Devan Dubnyk, who got a Vezina Trophy nomination off the strength of his superb second half in 2014-15, couldn’t consistently hold his own against the Blackhawks.
In a last gasp, the Wild scored two goals in the final three minutes of play, but it was too late as their season ended with a 4-3 loss to Chicago. In the end, Marian Hossa’s shorthanded goal on an empty net proved to be the winner. Before that, Kane provided the Blackhawks with a key insurance goal midway through the third period:
Chicago has become the first team to eliminate the same opponent in three consecutive years since Toronto did that to Ottawa in 2000-02, per the NHL Communications Department.
This also means that the Blackhawks have advanced to the Western Conference Final for the fifth time in seven years. That’s a remarkable stretch of playoff success, especially in the salary cap era.
Questions remain for Chicago going forward, not the least of which is what its defense will look like if Michal Rozsival misses a lengthy period of time due to what looked like a pretty bad ankle injury. For now though, Chicago can take a breather as it waits to see who will emerge victorious from the series between Calgary and Anaheim.
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