CHICAGO | After a three-game absence, Corey Crawford took his turn Friday night as grist in the Blackhawks’ only burning issue left: which goalie starts in the playoffs.
Crawford had to work through a shootout after his Joel Quenneville-mandated layoff to register more mental points with the Hawks coach. Brandon Saad scored on a backhander in the shootout to give the Hawks a 3-2 victory against Detroit.
“The kid’s unbelievable for us,” Crawford said. “He hasn’t laid off at all. It’s great to know what to expect for him.”
Crawford, 3-0 with a 0.96 goals-against average coming in against the Red Wings this season, dueled Detroit counterpart Jimmy Howard all game. Howard was slightly more spectacular in denying the Hawks several good scoring chances, including one by Patrick Kane in overtime.
Hawks winger Viktor Stalberg tallied the first goal at 6:11 of the second period, chipping in a shot to Howard’s right.
Then Crawford allowed two goals in relatively quick succession later in the period.
At 15:40, Johan Franzen tied it up, sneaking the puck by Crawford on a power play. Two minutes later, Cory Emmerton gave the Red Wings a 2-1 lead with another short shot.
The Hawks appeared headed toward a rare regulation loss against Detroit. But captain Jonathan Toews tied it at 2 with just more than three minutes left, sending the contest into overtime.
Crawford had not played since an April 4 shootout victory by the Blues here. Ray Emery started the next three games, all wins with two shutouts. leading to more questions who Quennevile will pick to work the postseason beginning in just under three weeks.
Quenneville appeared to play the game-by-game matchup with his goalies until Emery’s mini-streak of starts. Both are having stellar seasons. Crawford was 15-4-4 with a 2.01 goals-against average with a .922 saves percentage. Emery was 15-1-0 and 1.90.
“We’re both playing well,” Crawford said. “I see it as a positive thing. That’s exactly what you want is both goalies playing well. You don’t want your coach to be afraid to put somebody in. I look at it as a good thing for us going into playoffs.”
But any multi-game absence from the net, as Crawford experienced, is examined for omens. Plus, the benched goalie can get slightly out of rhythm.
“When you haven’t played in a little bit, there’s some things … there might be a little hesitation or you might not do something as smoothly as when you’re playing a bunch of games,” Crawford said before the game.
“But that’s one thing that me and (goalie coach Stephane Waite) can go over and just look at it and try to get it in my head and get my preparation there before I go out on the ice.”
Crawford had been particularly tough on the Red Wings this season, akin to Kansas City’s Jeremy Guthrie’s mastery over the White Sox. Lifetime, Crawford is 11-2-2 against Detroit.
The game, witnessed by a United Center season-high crowd of 22,191, was the last between the Hawks and Red Wings as Western Conference arch-rivals. Detroit shifts to the Eastern Conference for 2013-14. Appropriately, the huge crowd repeatedly roared a familiar epithet against the Red Wings.
“I don’t mind the new realignment the league decided to go with, but the one thing that does (stink) is not playing the Red Wings a number of times,” Hawks winger Patrick Sharp said. “I like going to Detroit and playing in their building and I like when they come here. They’re fun games to play in.”