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The Malik Report

Crawford, Howard’s playoff performances may have Olympic repercussions

In an ESPN Insider-only blog entry, Craig Custance suggests that the goaltender who wins Game 7 between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks tonight--Corey Crawford is Canadian, and Jimmy Howard's from upstate New York--will receive a significant boost to their portfolio in terms of attempting to earn a spot on their respective countries' 2014 Olympic teams. As Custance notes, it's all but certain that Wings coach Mike Babcock will reprise his role as Team Canada's coach, so he's seeing Crawford at his best...

Crawford was outstanding in Chicago's first-round series against the Wild, stopping 132 of 139 shots from Minnesota, good for a .950 save percentage. He has been solid against Detroit, registering a .924 save percentage in the conference semifinals.

Crawford's season nearly ended on an ugly note when Joakim Andersson's knuckler somehow got past him in Game 6, but he shook off the goal and kept the Blackhawks in the game the rest of the way.

With so many names in the mix for Canada, Crawford has an opportunity right now to show he can thrive in a pressure-filled Game 7 and keep the Blackhawks' season alive. If he can lead the Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup this spring, it will be a huge statement that he can handle the pressure of huge expectations -- like Chicago has right now, and like Canada will have in 2014.

And Team USA executive Jim Johansson tells Custance that Howard's stock is on the rise:

Howard has been asked to do more this season than Crawford, and has responded well. When the Red Wings struggled to start the season, lacking an early-season identity, he kept them in games. When they needed to win every game down the stretch to make the playoffs, Howard made it happen. And in the playoffs, he has consistently been one of the Red Wings' best players.

Howard's five regular-season shutouts were tied for the league lead, and thus far in the playoffs he has duplicated his regular-season save percentage of .923. Howard's Olympic stock is on the rise, according to Johannson.

"He had a very strong season," he said. "There's a lot of guys making cases for themselves. Jimmy is one of those guys."

Continued with discussions as to how World Championship performances can help prospective Olympians' causes.

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About The Malik Report

The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.


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