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Above the 49: Crawford should be a contender for Olympic spot

Corey Crawford has been largely an afterthought when it comes to goaltending candidates for Canada's 2014 Olympic hockey team in Sochi, but his performance in this year's NHL playoffs should vault him right to the top of the list of contenders.

That's not to say the Montreal-born Crawford, who does not have any notable international experience, should be a shoo-in for the No. 1 job for Team Canada or even be on the roster at all.

However, given his body of work over the last three seasons and in particular this year's playoffs in guiding the Chicago Blackhawks within just two wins of an appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals, Team Canada general manager Steve Yzerman and the rest of his brass can't afford not to give Crawford a long hard look.

Crawford isn't held quite in the same regard compared to some of the others who are thought of as being the leading contenders for a spot on the 2014 Canadian team, including the likes of Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo and Marc-Andre Fleury, who were part of the 2010 Olympic gold medal-winning squad, as well as some of the emerging candidates such as Mike Smith, Brian Elliott, Cam Ward, Devan Dubnyk and Carey Price.

But it's hard to argue with wins and losses, and that's where Crawford has an edge over just about anyone you can name. Among the aforementioned netminders, only Fleury (101) and Price (85) have managed to amass more regular-season wins over the past three seasons than Crawford's 82 victories.

None of those other netminders mentioned has managed to put up more playoff victories than Crawford over the last three seasons, either.

Despite the Blackhawks' setback against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday, Crawford still has 15 playoff wins over his last three years, which is tied with Luongo over that same stretch.

Luongo, of course, backstopped Canada to a gold medal in Vancouver back in 2010 after taking over between the pipes from Brodeur. At the time, Luongo had just 22 career playoff games under his belt and 11 career playoff wins at the NHL level.

Crawford, by comparison, has 29 career games of NHL playoff experience and 15 career playoff wins.

While there are those who would suggest Crawford has benefited from playing with an exceptionally talented Blackhawks squad which allows him to inflate his win totals, Crawford's personal numbers, especially this season - he combined with backup Ray Emery to win the Jennings Trophy for fewest goals surrendered while posting a personal career-best 1.94 goals against average - are more than enough proof he isn't just a passenger on the Blackhawks.

He's managed to steal a few games for his team here and there, most notable during the second round of this year's playoffs when his Blackhawks were down 3-1 in their series to the Detroit Red Wings but managed to claw all the way back to advance on.

In the final three games of that series, Crawford allowed just five goals on 91 shots faced, which included stopping 26 of 27 shots in the pivotal seventh game.

Crawford's play this year has made it virtually impossible to ignore his candidacy for a spot on the Canadian Olympic team. But if he manages to add another notch on his belt and guide the Blackhawks to this year's Stanley Cup Finals and maybe even win it all, then you can almost be certain that Crawford will be afforded the chance to strut his stuff in front of Team Canada's brass at their first pre-tournament camp.

Team Canada would be doing itself a tremendous disservice if it doesn't at least consider Crawford for a spot given what he's managed to accomplish in just a very short time in the NHL.