NHL

Crawford rewards Blackhawks' faith

Highlights of the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the Bruins in Game 5.  Chicago leads the series 3-2.
Highlights of the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the Bruins in Game 5. Chicago leads the series 3-2.
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A.J. Perez

A.J. Perez previously worked at USA Today, AOL and CBSSports.com, covering beats ranging from performance-enhancing drugs to the NHL. He has also been a finalist for an Associated Press Sports Editors award for investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter.

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CHICAGO

The only near certainty in the Stanley Cup Final besides overtime has been where the puck was going to get directed at Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford.

The Boston Bruins were shooting to his glove side early, often and almost without exception. Nine of the 13 goals in the series — including another he allowed in Game 5 at United Center on Saturday — have gone toward Crawford’s trapper.

That was, however, the only goal Crawford allowed as he recorded 25 saves (some even with his glove) in a 3-1 victory over the Bruins. Another performance like that and Crawford can snare something else: His first Stanley Cup.

“It's exciting to have that opportunity,” said Crawford, who can help the 'Hawks clinch at TD Garden in Boston on Monday. "But you can't get too up and you've got to prepare the same way. You prepare the same way we have all year and play the same game. Don't try and do too much. Just keep playing the same way we have.”

Those words mirrored what he said after he allowed five goals — all over his glove — in Game 4. Replays highlighted Crawford’s seeming inability to use his catching glove for anything more than to shield his left hand from the elements. Charts were made by media outlets as were jokes by the masses.

The fact that the ‘Hawks won Game 4 in overtime — the third time the Cup finals had gone past regulation — was almost an afterthought.

“Corey has been great all season long,” Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith said. “For whatever reason, there were a lot of goals (scored) last game in Boston. I think both goalies were great tonight. Corey made some huge saves to preserve the lead.”

Crawford made seven saves in the third period, although he had no answer for a Zdeno Chara one-timer 3:40 into the third period that made it a 2-1 game. Not many people would want to stand in front of the type of powerful shot the towering Boston defenseman possesses; fewer can stop it from the face-off dot a few feet away.

Doubt, however, didn’t appear to creep into Crawford’s mind or the minds of his teammates.

“Funny how we keep answering questions about Corey after every game,” Sharp said. “We’ll give you the same answer. We don’t have any questions about him. He’s been great for us from start to finish. Even giving up five goals, we could care less. We know he’s going to be a lock back there and he was great for us tonight.”

Crawford doesn’t get flustered often. He also isn’t quirky at a position that seems to attract some of the sporting world’s oddest characters.

One of those was in the building as former Blackhawks goalie Ed Belfour, known as “Crazy Eddie,” received an ovation from the fans during a stoppage in play. The last ‘Hawks goalie to lead the franchise to a title, Antti Niemi, said before the 2010 finals that he’d used the same goalie jock — which had been rebuilt several times — since age 10.

“I try not to be superstitious,” Crawford said. “I don’t want to think because I tied my left skate first instead of my right skate, I’m going to give up a bunch of goals.”

And even after allowing “a bunch of goals in Game 4,” Crawford said he wasn’t going to change a thing.

“I'm not really listening to it,” Crawford said after Game 5. “I have a job to do. Whatever is being said doesn't really affect what I'm going to do on the ice."

One more win and he’ll be known as a Stanley Cup winner, much more so than a guy with a questionable mitt.

Tagged: Bruins, Blackhawks, Ed Belfour, Corey Crawford

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