This marks Crawford’s second game back from concussion issues that put his season – if not career – on the line, and he’s been thrown right in the deep end. The veteran goalie has faced at least 30 shots in each of his two appearances, so Chicago hasn’t exactly been able to make it an easy return.
“Yeah, we gotta play better in front of him, no doubt,” Patrick Kane said, according to the Athletic’s Mark Lazerus. “It’s one of those things where we played pretty well the first five games, then all of a sudden he comes back and maybe you’re just expecting him to bail you out — which he has the past two games.”
Perhaps the clearest moment of Crawford bailing his team out came on this save, as Artemi Panarin made things happen very quickly in setting up this scoring chance for Pierre Luc-Dubois:
Following the 4-1 win, Crawford said that he felt like he was reading plays well, and the numbers back that up. The Blue Jackets fired 11 shots on goal on their four power-play opportunities, but Crawford shut the door on all of them.
With this victory, the Blackhawks continued their generally strong start to the season, improving their record to 4-1-2, giving them 10 standings points from seven games.
Before Crawford came back, Chicago was largely winning despite its goaltending, as Cam Ward looked shaky at best through five games. You could state that perhaps Crawford returned at the perfect time, but either way, this is a promising start for the goalie and his team.
It doesn’t guarantee that Crawford won’t suffer health-related setbacks as the season progresses, but so far, so good.