Corey Crawford has always been an under-appreciated goalie outside of the Chicago market, and perhaps sometimes inside the city as well. It really is not fair in my eyes, for Crawford comes out with spirit at his most needed times. He has always been there for this Blackhawks team since his stay became permanent just five seasons ago. As for right now, that time is the 2016 postseason.
When Crawford was handed a six-year deal shortly after being awarded the first Stanley Cup Championship of his career, much of the city was nothing but exhilarated about the long term deal. Crawford has started 55 or more games in 5 of the 6 years in the league having 30 or more wins in as many seasons. A two-time William M. Jennings trophy winner in each of his two Stanley Cup winning seasons. Defense is a tremendous help (especially in Chicago), but a goalie is the last line of defense.
The guys in net can make for a great comparison. Everyone should like a good player to player comparison. I will not pride myself on making a good comparison, just try to do the job. This one is a generous one because it is basically set up for us. Corey Crawford was drafted in the second round, 52nd overall, in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, 51 selections after goalie counterpart, Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. Both goaltenders born in the province of Quebec, Canada, each with a path unique of each other to the NHL. Now Fleury has been in the NHL since he was taken first overall in the draft those 13 years ago and Crawford is just a little past settling in. Crawford does have two championships under him, though Fleury has put his team in position to win two Stanley Cup’s in back to back seasons, something that no team has actually accomplished since the Detroit Red Wings of 1997 & 1998. Fleury has 10 seasons under him getting 34+ wins in seven of them. With some perspective, Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers has 30+ wins in 9 out of 10 of his NHL seasons. When taking individual team records, Fleury blows Crawford away, with no surprise, as he holds Penguins goalie records for most career games, wins, and shutouts, as well as the most games, minutes, and shutouts in an individual season for the Penguins. Crawford only holds the best career save percentage in a Blackhawks uniform. detailed info at http://www.tonton.tv
Though another reason I am putting Crawford up against Fleury to show how important Crawford is to this Chicago team is based on this past season. Crawford and Fleury had the same amount of games played (58) in 2015-16. The last three years the difference between Crawford and Fleury’s win percentage is just 1.16% (56.90%/58.06%), goals against average (GAA) a difference of .03 (2.30/2.33), and save percentage: .003% (.922%/.919%) Crawford led the league in shutouts (7), let up less goals (131) in more minutes (1718) than Fleury (132, 1665) in 2015-16. Of course Crawford had a Norris Trophy/Conn Smythe winning defenseman in Duncan Keith, but even he was out 10 games due to knee surgery and 6 games due to suspension. If you are a fan who did not hook on to the Hawks season this year, you would not know that Chicago barely had a fourth quality defensmen at all. Chicago ran on their top 3 in Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson most of the year.
Now I could keep throwing out numbers, except even though numbers never lie, they also do not tell the whole truth of the matter. When Crawford was injured with what was presumably a concussion from a game back in March against LA Kings. He was scratched out of playing time for a until mid-April, right before postseason play. The Blackhawks had a rough stretch without the man they call Crow, losing 4 of 7, then winning 3 of 5 to finish out the regular season. In those final twelve games, losing half of them screamed the Hawks need Crawford back for any chance at a back to back Cup run.
Crawford has to have that spirit mentioned previously and a voice who can challenge his team after a slow start to a series. There is a locker room full of players that would want nothing less but to respect him with the same presence and support.