There’s no doubt about the fact that the Chicago Blackhawks‘ first round defeat at the hands of the Phoenix Coyotes was an incredible disappointment. Even more disappointing is how much of the blame goaltender Corey Crawford has had to shoulder.
Crawford surrendered overtime goals in Game 3 and Game 4, both coming of an extremely soft nature. There’s no defending those goals. But without Crawford, is there even overtime?
The regular season wasn’t kind to Corey Crawford. He struggled to find any sort of consistency and lost his job to Ray Emery at one point. That’s the definition of ‘rock bottom’.
There has already been plenty of discussion as to whether or not the Hawks will seek other options to sit between the pipes next season. But just as benching Crawford wouldn’t have been a good idea in Game 6, replacing him with an outside option could be a bad decision for the Blackhawks.
Crawford’s numbers for the regular season were rough. His save percentage was barely over .900 and he didn’t post a single shutout, with the Hawks standing as the only team without one this season. While the numbers might not show it, Crawford was much better down the stretch and against Phoenix.
He appeared to gain his confidence once March hit, allowing three or more goals just three times in 11 appearances towards the end of the year.
It would also help a bit if the guys in front of him had picked up their game a bit, particularly in the playoffs. The offensive support wasn’t really there, thanks to the big issues on the power play, but the defense was a big issue all season. That’s something I expect the Hawks to address this offseason.
With the Hawks’ inability to handle the puck in their own end and get the puck out of the defensive zone, along with their tendency to get outmuscled, you can’t put everything on the goaltender.
Does Crawford deserve his share of the blame for the Hawks’ struggles this season? Sure. But I think the Blackhawks will give him another year to figure it out, and that’s the right move. After a sophomore slump, let’s see what this guy really has. I’d be willing to bet we see something much more similar to the end of the year, rather than the beginning.