Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford has won a Stanley Cup and has a career playoff goals-against average of 2.01, yet he always seems to be picked apart by the critics.
The Wild has the fullest respect for him. After all, in seven playoff games over two years, Crawford has allowed 10 goals to Minnesota. After scoring three goals in the first two games of this series, the Wild wants to make life more difficult on him.
“We have to put more pressure on him,” coach Mike Yeo said. “He’s playing very well. I look at our net-front traffic on him; I don’t think it’s been enough through the two games.”
His job was made much easier in Game 2 Sunday as the Blackhawks allowed their fewest shots on goal in a single period all season (two). It balanced out in the second when the Wild fired 13 shots, with Crawford brushing off each one. In Game 1 Friday, he stopped all 17 second-period shots he faced.
“It’s got to be one of the toughest situations for a goaltender to not see too many pucks, and then all of the sudden get a flurry of shots,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “He’s focused. When he makes a big save, you’re not sure whether you want to go tap him on the pads and talk to him. I think you almost just want to leave him alone and let him do his thing. He makes one stop, and he’s ready for the next one.”
This was another season in which Crawford received criticism, but defenseman Duncan Keith said, “As a player, you grow from that and certainly, I think he has, and he’s gotten better over the years in his game on the ice, but also mentally, too. I think it comes with age.”
The Blackhawks also blocked 25 shots Sunday, so Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner said, “I think we’re going to have to get more traffic to the net and put a little more onus on the defensemen to get that puck through and get a rebound there for the forwards to bang in.”
Cooke still involved
In a Wild-produced video of the postgame locker-room celebration after the team’s Game 7 overtime victory over Colorado, suspended forward Matt Cooke ecstatically greets every player and coach as they leave the ice.
“The guys played great and I think my reaction is proud of this group, proud of the resilience, excited about the opportunity and I just wanted them to know that even though I wasn’t playing, I was there to support them,” Cooke said.
Cooke’s seven-game suspension for kneeing Colorado’s Tyson Barrie ends after Tuesday’s Game 3. He is expected back in the lineup for Game 4 on Friday.
“This is why we play the game,” Cooke said. “The last thing I wanted to do was not to be involved in any of these games, so the opportunity to get back with this group on the ice is exciting for me.”
The Wild continues its quest to host a Winter Classic. But there are plans to bring a stadium-series game to Minnesota as soon as next season.
The Wild wants the opponent to be the Blackhawks, but the NHL is pushing the Dallas Stars as the opponent. If the game happens, it looks as if it will be played at Target Field.
• Several Blackhawks players talked about how good Xcel Energy Center’s ice is Monday. One was Marian Hossa, who has six points in two games: “The fans and the building is so loud. When they do something, it seems like they have so much energy, they come really fast at you. The ice is one of the best ice [surfaces] in the league. The ice is so fast, they’ll be flying. We want to make sure we grab the beginning of the game, and we want to make sure we play our game.
• The NHL has set Game 4’s starting time Friday at 8:30 p.m. It will be televised on NBC Sports Network.
• Injured Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw didn’t travel to Minnesota for Game 3.
Blake Schuster contributed to this report.