The noise at TD Bank Garden vanished after Brent Seabrook scored the game-winning goal across the rink in overtime to even the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals series 2-2. Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford, likely taking a sigh of relief, joined his teammates at the center of the ice.
Crawford gave up five goals in Game 4 of the Finals. If not for the offensive onslaught of the ‘Hawks and the uncharacteristic lapse of judgment from Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, Chicago would be down in another 3-1 series hole.
Fans across the NHL spectrum roared for Crawford’s absence and for Ray Emery to start in Game 5. Crawford’s glove-side save attempts were simply not good enough to stop the relentless attack from the Bruins’ shooters and gave up the lead three times.
"You think you have a good lead at 3-1 and they made it 3-2. Then we had 4-2 and they scored on the power play," Patrick Kane said following the OT victory.
Following the tough win, Crawford heard the criticism and would no longer allow a hemorrhaging of goals like he did two nights before.
In Game 5, the ‘Hawks goaltender rebounded by giving up only a single goal. A couple nights later, Crawford earned the victory in Game 6 by allowing just two. These performances followed the 12 goals he gave up in the first four games of the Stanley Cup Finals.
"I never lost confidence. No one in our room ever did,” Crawford said following Game 6.
It was quite the ride for Crawford. After always being compared to the former ‘Hawk goaltender and 2010 Cup champion Antti Niemi, the 28-year-old Canadian finally silenced all his critics, at least for one season.
How happy was the netminder? He was excited enough to drop the F-bomb twice at the Blackhawks victory parade in Chicago.
Go ahead, Crawford; drop as many as you’d like, because training camp opens at Notre Dame Sept. 12, and the Cup’s defense begins immediately.