Crow con­tin­ues to boost his Vezi na cre­den­tials

Chicago Sun-Times - - BLACKHAWKS BEAT - BY MARK LAZERUS Staff Reporter

Corey Craw­ford couldn’t help but smile Sun­day when he was asked if he ever al­lows him­self to think about win­ning the Vez­ina Tro­phy as the NHL’s top goalie.

“I don’t know,” he said, al­most bash­fully. “It’d be a pretty nice honor. But we have a bunch of games to play, and it’s al­ways about the next game first.”

The Vez­ina has been Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals goalie Braden Holtby’s to lose all sea­son, but Craw­ford has mus­cled his way into the con­ver­sa­tion with his con­sis­tently strong play since the start of De­cem­ber. And since a rough out­door game in Min­nesota, in which he was pulled af­ter two pe­ri­ods, Craw­ford has given up only seven goals in his last four games. Craw­ford has a ca­reer­high 35 vic­to­ries, and his .929 save per­cent­age is the best among goalies with at least 35 games played.

Pa­trick Kane is the front- run­ner to win the Hart Tro­phy as the league’s most valu­able player, but Craw­ford has been ev­ery bit as im­por­tant to the Hawks. Get­ting picked for Canada’s World Cup of Hockey team this week was a sign that he’s start­ing to get the leaguewide re­spect that has eluded him. Be­ing a Vez­ina fi­nal­ist would so­lid­ify it.

“Maybe he has been part of that talk, maybe he hasn’t,” Jonathan Toews said. “But he’s got my vote, ab­so­lutely.”

Learn­ing process

Dale Weise only played 7: 43 against the Detroit Red Wings as coach Joel Quen­neville leaned heav­ily on his top three lines when it was still a one- goal game. Weise, ac­quired be­fore the trade dead­line from the Mon­treal Cana­di­ens, is still likely des­tined for the third line with To­mas Fleis­chmann and Teuvo Ter­a­vainen. But for now, he’s still feel­ing his way.

“He’s OK,” an un­der­whelmed Quen­neville said. “For stretches, he looks all right.”

Show­downs loom

The Hawks hit the road this week for two huge games against the St. Louis Blues and Dal­las Stars, with whom they’re jock­ey­ing for first place in the Cen­tral Divi­sion. Craw­ford cau­tioned against look­ing ahead to the Stars be­fore they deal with the Blues.

“This first one’s re­ally im­por­tant,” Craw­ford said. “We have to put all our fo­cus on that one. It’s go­ing to be a step­ping- stone for the play­offs.”

| NAM Y. HUH/ AP

Corey Craw­ford makes a save on Red Wings cen­ter Dy­lan Larkin.

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