Crawford helps backstop Blackhawks to strong start

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With the Chicago Blackhawks off to a 3-0-1 start, players like Brandon Saad and Alex DeBrincat have been able to grab headlines for their individual feats so far.

Back with Chicago after two seasons in Columbus and this offseason’s blockbuster trade, the 24-year-old Saad already has a hat trick — on the night the Blackhawks put up 10 against the Pittsburgh Penguins — and five goals and seven points in four games.

After making the roster out of training camp, DeBrincat scored his first career NHL goal the other night versus Montreal, and then had a beautiful set up on another goal as Chicago recorded the win — fresh off an overtime loss the previous night in Toronto.

What shouldn’t be overlooked is the play of goalie Corey Crawford through his first three starts. He has allowed only one goal in each of his three games and was particularly good in Montreal with a 41-save performance — on another night when the Blackhawks were badly outshot. So far, the Blackhawks have the fourth worst Corsi For rating at five-on-five, per Corsica. Yet, they are second in goals scored with 21 and have allowed only seven goals against.

While the offense has enjoyed a rapid start to the season, Crawford has certainly done his part in goal. The Blackhawks were badly outshot in the first period versus Montreal, and still came out with the lead. He was busy again in the third period, but shut the door and Chicago held on for the win.

“We all know the importance of goaltending,” coach Joel Quenneville told the Chicago Tribune earlier this season. “It puts you in a good spot. We know the value of getting off to a strong start is huge and I think goaltending is extremely important to start the season.”

The Blackhawks return home tonight to face their division rivals, the Minnesota Wild. Crawford is expected to get the start in net, while Nick Schmaltz is expected to be out of the lineup tonight, but could return Saturday against Nashville.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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