Of the major team sports, no position is more difficult, vital, scrutinized, lonely and blamed more than an NHL goaltender. (You could certainly argue for an NFL quarterback, but that’s beside the point.)
That, as well as the overall pessimism of Chicago sports fans, is why Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford could be one of the most under-appreciated netminders of all time.
Anytime he allows what most Hawks fans consider a soft goal, they scream for his head on a platter. Shouts such as “Get your head out of your ass” are all too common. And when he plays a great game, well, that’s to be expected. Just doing his job.
Opinions over Crawford’s performance and success are one thing, but stats don’t deceive. And this year, the numbers suggest that Corey Crawford is a great goalie. In fact, the argument could be made that he was the Blackhawks’ MVP this season.
In 57 regular season games, his save percentage was below .900 just 16 times. By comparison, the New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist (regarded by many as the NHL’s best goalie) had 11 such instances in 46 games.
Since becoming the Blackhawks’ starting goalie in 2010-2011, Corey Crawford has already racked up the fourth-most regular season wins in franchise history (147). The three ahead of him – Tony Esposito, Glenn Hall, and Ed Belfour – are all in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Of those four, Crawford has the best (or only) winning percentage:
When you look at Crawford’s performance on hockey’s biggest stage, the Stanley Cup playoffs, his numbers are even more impressive. An Original Six franchise, the Blackhawks have made the postseason 60 times since their inception (1926-27).
Over that extensive playoff history, Crawford and the three aforementioned Hall of Famers are (naturally) the top four goalies in postseason games played. And of the Big Four, Corey Crawford once again sticks out:
Winning %: 1st
Stanley Cups: 1st (tied with Hall at one)
Of the eight goalies in Blackhawks history to play in 10+ playoff contests, only Antii Niemi and Charlie Gardiner (Cup winners) have a better winning percentage than Crawford – but in less than a third of the games played. Only Gardiner (another Hall of Famer) has a better GAA.
If the Blackhawks can beat the Lightning, Crawford would tie Esposito in playoff wins and become the franchise’s first goalie to win two Stanley Cups.
Basically, Corey Crawford is three wins away from having a hell of an argument for “greatest goalie In Blackhawks history.”
And yet, somehow, he’s underappreciated on a team full of more exciting stars. When the Blackhawks juggernaut is winning, Crawford is simply the final piece to the puzzle. But when they lose, he’s the first to be blamed.
I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard Mike Milbury analyzing this play and say, “This one, he is going to straight to hell on because this is a condemnable goal” about Crawford.
If Crow goes to hell, he’ll have the company of every NHL goalie to ever don the pads. And this condemnation came from an idiot that’s never played one game of goalie in his life.
Predictable, because that’s the easy thing to say.
But considering Crawford is no guarantee to be back next season and has the Hawks three wins from their third championship in six years, I think Blackhawks fans should be saying something else.