Corey Crawford

Why Blackhawks are riding or dying with Corey Crawford

Why Blackhawks are riding or dying with Corey Crawford

The Blackhawks played in 13 back-to-back stretches going into the weekend and divided the starts between their two goaltenders in each of them to that point. They had the luxury of doing so with a pair of No. 1 type guys in Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner.

But for the first time all season, they changed course.

After winning four straight, the Blackhawks went back to Crawford on Friday in Detroit for his eighth consecutive start instead of turning to Malcolm Subban, who was acquired from Vegas at the NHL trade deadline. Crawford had a 5-2-0 record with a 2.55 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in his previous seven, so it's not a surprise he kept the crease.

“He’s rolling,” head coach Jeremy Colliton told reporters. “So we wanted to ride that.”

The Blackhawks lost 2-1, but Crawford stopped 23 of 25 shots for a .920 save percentage and was their best player on a night his team looked sluggish. That’s part of the reason why it was the right call to put him back in for a second straight day.

The other part is the fact the Blackhawks are fighting for their playoff lives and Crawford gives them the best chance to win on a nightly basis. It’s why he will make his ninth straight start on Sunday against the St. Louis Blues.

And until they’re mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, the Blackhawks are likely going to continue riding or dying with Crawford.

"Not going to commit to anything," Colliton said. "But he's going to play a lot, I'm sure." 

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Top 7 Blackhawks who need to finish strong

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USA Today

Top 7 Blackhawks who need to finish strong

The Blackhawks are still fighting for their postseason lives and now sit four points out of a playoff spot. Regardless of their destiny following the regular season, there are a decent amount of players whose final stretch is of great importance.

It's clear from what we've seen so far this year that the squad will be retooled, especially on defense, this offseason. On the plus side, a few rookies have shown a lot of promise as they took on hefty minutes and responsibilities with the Hawks this season.

There's also players who've been in the league a few years and underperformed during the 2019-20 campaign; it would be in their best interest to end on a positive note as well. 

Top 7 Blackhawks who need to finish regular season strong

Why Corey Crawford was briefly removed from game by NHL concussion spotters

Why Corey Crawford was briefly removed from game by NHL concussion spotters

Corey Crawford's concussion history has been well-documented. He missed the entire second half of the 2017-18 season and a portion of last season due to a head injury, appearing in only 67 games over that span.

On Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks, the 35-year-old goaltender had an injury scare. And it appears he dodged a bullet.

At the 1:21 mark of the third period, Crawford was accidentally kneed in the mask by Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf, who tried jumping over the netminder after Crawford covered up the puck in the crease. Crawford's head snapped back, and he needed a few seconds to shake it off before play resumed.

But 38 seconds later, Blackhawks head athletic trainer Mike Gapski removed Crawford from the game, which was initially believed to have come from the NHL's concussion spotters. Head coach Jeremy Colliton clarified the situation after the game.

"Originally there was a bit of miscommunication as far as it being mandatory or discretionary," said Colliton, whose NHL career was cut short because of concussions. "He felt fine; he didn’t feel anything with his head. We thought it was mandatory, so he had to come out. But Gapper checked him out and he seems to be good. Clearly, no one wants to see him coming off."

Crawford didn't show any visible signs of a concussion and admitted after the game he felt the impact in his neck more than his head.

"Yeah,” he said, “it was just one of those ones where you feel it for a few seconds and it was fine after.”

Crawford stayed on the bench and returned 70 seconds later to finish the game. He stopped 37 of 39 shots for a save percentage of .949 and was named the No. 2 star of the game to pick up his third straight victory.

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.