Crawford to start for Blackhawks against Wild
CHICAGO (AP) — Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Monday goalie Corey Crawford will start Game 1 of the team’s second-round series against the Minnesota Wild.
Crawford was shaky early in the Blackhawks’ six-game win over Nashville in the opening round and lost the starting job to backup Scott Darling.
The Wild and Blackhawks will meet in the postseason for the third straight year, and in the second round for the second straight time.
But after Darling allowed three goals on 12 shots in the first period of Game 6 on Saturday, Crawford relieved and stopped all 13 shots the rest of the way as the Blackhawks rallied for a 4-3 win.
“Crawford had a great response in a very important game for us,” Quenneville said. “It was a great win for him and for us. He’s exiting the series on a real positive note.
“He certainly put us in the position now, it’s his net. Let’s go.”
Crawford played in the Blackhawks run to the Stanley Cup in 2013.
He was rewarded in September 2013 with a six-year contract extension that pays $6 roughly million a year and runs through 2019-20.
In the 2014-15 regular season, Crawford appeared in 57 regular-season games, finishing 32 wins and a 2.27 goals-against average.
But so far in these playoffs, Crawford is 1-1 with a 4.19 goals-against average and .850 save percentage.
So will Crawford be on a short run against the Wild?
“You don’t think like that going into a game ... or a series,” Quenneville said. “That’s something we’ve never had to deal with before.
“But I’m fine with our goaltending situation and very confident Corey is going to get the job done.”
Crawford and his teammates beat the Wild in five games in the opening round in 2013 en route to the Stanley Cup.
Last season, Chicago got past Minnesota in six games in the second round.
Given the Wild’s strong finish to make the postseason and the addition of the 6-foot-6 Devan Dubnyk — who started in 39 of Minnesota’s 40 final regular season games — the Blackhawks expect this third postseason matchup to be tougher.
And the Wild just beat Central Division champion St. Louis in six games with Dubnyk in goal. Acquired in a trade from Arizona on Jan. 14, he started all six games against the Blues and got all four wins.
His only hiccup was in Game 4, when the Blues won 6-1.
Dubnyk and the Wild beat Chicago twice in the regular season after he arrived in Minnesota. He stopped 66 of 67 shots in those games.
“Now that we face (Minnesota), I feel like they’re getting better and better in a lot of ways every year,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “It’s going to be the toughest test we’ve seen in a long time, so it’s up to us.
“We know there’s another level we need to get to.”
As with 6-foot-6 Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne, the Blackhawks realize establishing traffic in front of Dubnyk is key.
“When you know you’re up against a goaltender ... who covers a lot of net, you’ve got to do what you can to get in front of him,” Toews said. “So it’s something we’ll focus on and it’s nothing new going up against a goaltender who’s been playing well.”
Despite their offensive skill, the Blackhawks said they need to match or exceed the Wild’s attention to defense. They also need to keep an eye on Minnesota’s speedy forwards, starting with Zach Parise, who led the Wild in regular-season scoring and leads them so far in the postseason with seven points.
While Chicago is wary Crawford doesn’t think there’s an especially bitter postseason rivalry — and least not yet — between the teams.
“It will be maybe a little bit of a rivalry, just because we’ve seen them the last few years,” he said. “I don’t know.”
But the Blackhawks’ past success against the Wild doesn’t guarantee anything now.
“I don’t think it really matters what the results were to be honest,” Crawford said.
Some of the Wild players started to look ahead to Chicago after closing out the Blues on Sunday in St. Paul.
“We’ve got to keep looking at what’s ahead of us and we’ve got a chance to play a team that we’ve seen quite a bit in recent years,” Wild forward Jason Pominville said on Sunday. “Hopefully this time’s the right one.”
Parise said it was OK for the Wild to savor the win over the Blues, but not for long.
“Enjoy it for a couple days and now look forward to our series against Chicago,” Parise said. “That’s a team that’s knocked us out for the last couple years, so we’ve got to be ready for them.”
Notes: Chicago won its first three regular-season games against Minnesota, but dropped the final two. Dubnyk blanked the Blackhawks 3-0, stopping 24 shots, on Feb. 3 in St. Paul. Minnesota won 2-1 at Chicago on April 7 to clinch a playoff spot. ... In practice Monday, Quenneville juggled his lines, putting the physical Bryan Bickell on a group with center Brad Richards and star right wing Patrick Kane, possibly with net presence in front of Dubnyk in mind.