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5 things: Picking Corey Crawford's biggest save

Corey Crawford provided a highlight reel of saves, but there's one that stands out.

For those of you scoring at home, Game 3 of Blackhawks-Wild went Patrick Kane 1, Corey Crawford 0. Here’s your “5 things’’ blog as you enjoy the “State of Hockey’’ going-out-of-business sale this week.

1. Corey Crawford’s flashiest save in Game 3 came midway through the second period when Mikael Granlund blew in on a breakaway thanks to a nifty backhand pass from Zach Parise.

Granlund flew down the slot and prepared to pick the top left corner, and it looked like Crawford knew it. The Hawks goalie raised his blocker and redirected the puck to the right corner to maintain his team’s 1-0 lead.

Or maybe his flashiest save came against Nino Niederreiter in the slot early in the first period.

Or maybe it came against Niederreiter on the doorstep with eight minutes to go in the second period.

Or maybe it was against Parise from the goal line extended during a power play in the second period.

Or maybe it came during a goal-mouth scramble in which Crawford somehow managed to flash his left pad to keep the puck from completely crossing the line with less than four minutes to go in the second period.

Or maybe it came during that stunning third-period shift when the Granlund line looked like the 2010 Hawks for almost a full minute.

Or maybe it came against Jason Pominville point-blank midway through the third period.

Or maybe it came on an angled shot by Parise that left a fat rebound up the middle late in the third period.

Or maybe it came with five minutes left in regulation when Crawford snapped into position after Coyle’s shot from the right boards deflected off Marcus Kruger.

Or maybe it came on a tracer of a slap shot by Granlund that Crawford seemed to stop with his neck in the final minute.

Man, Crawford made a lot of flashy saves, didn’t he?

But arguably, Crawford’s most important save came before any of those highlights.

About two minutes after the opening faceoff, Coyle grabbed the puck and set up Matt Cooke for a glorious chance, but Crawford stoned Cooke's backhander with a great left pad save.

Had Cooke scored, the Wild would’ve had their first lead of the series. Their already noisy building would’ve exploded, and who knows what it might’ve done to Crawford and the Hawks. Early goals are killers, and you never know how a goalie and a team will react.

As it turned out, there was nothing to worry about. Crawford was ready and would remain that way until his teammates caught up.

Cooke didn’t score. None of the Wild did. The imperfect goalie from the first round was perfect Tuesday night. The superb 1-0 goalie win moved the Hawks within a game of the Western Conference finals for the third straight year and fifth time in the last seven seasons.

When Crawford gave up three goals in the second period of Game 1, some questioners asked Hawks coach Joel Quenneville about perhaps pulling the goalie. I wrote that Crawford didn’t need a seat on the bench as much as he needed help from his teammates.

He has been getting more of it in allowing just one goal in the last two games. The Hawks blocked 19 shots in Game 3 and did a good job of letting Crawford see the puck. Crawford was outstanding at controlling rebounds, sucking up just about everything. It was a surprise when a puck bounced off him and into the slot.

But the Hawks still need to provide more help. They gave up 30 shots on goal in Game 3, 10 in the third period. They allowed 31 shots in Game 2, 15 in the third. They allowed 33 shots in Game 1.

The Hawks are averaging the most shots against of the remaining playoff teams. The high number of shots against has been an issue most of the season. It will remain so going forward.

But if there’s an upside to that risky style, it’s that the goaltender can put on a spectacular show.

2. In Games 1 and 2 in Chicago when the Hawks had the last line change, Quenneville sent out Jonathan Toews’ line against Mikko Koivu’s and used Brad Richards’ line against Granlund’s.

In Game 3 in St. Paul, Wild coach Mike Yeo countered by matching Koivu’s line against Toews and got Granlund’s unit against the Hawks’ fourth line centered by Kruger.

Koivu and Granlund went a combined 15-27 on faceoffs, mostly against Toews and the tag team of Kruger and Andrew Shaw, who was a stunning 7-2 at the dot.

While Kruger went 6-5 on faceoffs, his biggest contribution might’ve been clearing the puck twice in the last 45 seconds when the Wild pulled goalie Devan Dubnyk for an extra skater.

Quenneville seemed content to let Kruger’s line skate against Granlund, Parise and Pominville, even as the Hawks' fourth line was getting dominated in puck possession and scoring chances. But Granlund’s didn’t score, and that’s what matters most from the checking line.

In the third period, Yeo changed matchups, but not his lines, putting out Koivu’s line against Antoine Vermette, Patrick Sharp and Teuvo Teravainen, and matching Granlund’s line against Brad Richards, Bryan Bickell and Kane.

Yeo’s moves nearly worked, but Crawford made that point-blank save on Pominville and then dropped his stick and grabbed the puck in front of his goal line.

Crawford showed a bit of Dominik Hasek with that play, but even if he had missed the puck, it likely would’ve been wiped out on replay because Parise made a clear kicking motion to direct at the net.

3. The Wild killed the Hawks in the basic 5-on-5 Corsi For metric because the Hawks conceded about two-thirds of the ice in the third period while trying to protect a one-goal lead.

In order to get a better idea of which players did the best job with the puck and driving scoring chances, it’s smarter to examine the Score-Adjusted Corsi For metric on the war-on-ice.com site.

Score-Adjusted Corsi For factors in the proclivity of teams leading in the third period to turtle, which skews the basic 5-on-5 numbers.

Using that metric, the Vermette-Sharp-Teravainen line combined to register a stunning plus-25.2. Teravainen sent Sharp in on a great scoring chance and could’ve had two goals himself if he had lifted the puck.

Vermette’s line was the only Hawks trio to finish with plus percentages. The Richards-Kane-Bickell line finished minus-22, the Hawks’ worst. It was midway through the second period before I realized Richards dressed for the game.

4. For a league that yammers on about emphasizing safety and ought to be looking out for its stars, the NHL looks awful after an inexplicable non-call late in the first period.

Kane worked the puck in the left corner of the Wild zone as defenseman Matt Dumba moved in and drilled the Hawks star from behind.

I can’t say Dumba saw Kane’s numbers, but he’s obligated to, and how could he not?

The “88’’ was staring Dumba in the face as he drove Kane into the boards and drove his face into the dasher.

As Kane slumped to the ice, referees Dan O’Halloran and Dan O’Rourke made no call. What, they weren’t watching as the guy with the puck flashed his “88’’ to everyone in the rink with an opponent closing in?

But hey, at least the clavicle held up.

5. Quenneville isn’t exclusively going with his top four defensemen, but seems that way.

Kimmo Timmonen played just 5:44, while Michal Rozsival got 16:08 of ice time. Duncan Keith of course led everyone with 29:22, while Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya all played more than 22 minutes.

Quenneville has doled out those percentages of ice time per 60 minutes throughout the playoffs, spotting the 40-year-old Timmonen and judiciously rotating through 36-year-old Rozsival to buy his top four defensemen some rest.

The way this series is going while the Ducks-Flames series is headed for at least five games, Quenneville would seem to have the option of extending his top defensemen in Game 4 in hopes of completing the sweep, which would give every Hawk some real rest.

a. The Hawks came into the game with the worst penalty-killing unit of the surviving playoff teams, but shut down the three opportunities given the Wild’s top-ranked power play, allowing just three shots on net.

b. All those noisy Wild fans chanting “Craaaaaawwwww-forrrrrrd’’ were simply voicing their vote for the first star of Game 3, right?

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