Coming into the season, Corey Crawford was a total wild card for the Chicago Blackhawks. No one really knew what to expect from him heading into his third full season with the club.
Well, after his first pair of starts for the Hawks this season, he may be on his way to shaking that label clean off. With the club off to their best start since the 1972-73 season, they can thank Crawford for playing a huge role in that, though they’ve obviously been terrific in other areas as well.
But Crawford has been a pleasant surprise this year, in the limited sample space in which we’ve seen him anyway. After struggling so badly last year, many questioned whether or not Craw had already worn out his welcome at the Madhouse. He could be on his way to earning back some of those supporters that came after the 2010-11 playoff series against the Vancouver Canucks.
Crawford was solid in the Blackhawks’ opener against the defending champion Los Angeles Kings. But it was against the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday when we really saw what Crawford is capable of when he’s on top of his game.
One of the big knocks on Crawford last year was that he didn’t steal games for the Hawks in the way that other top goaltenders might steal a win here and there for their team. After their late struggles against the Blues on Tuesday, the Hawks can thank Crawford for helping to keep them undefeated for the season.
Simply put, he was brilliant. He finished with 32 saves on the night, allowing just the two goals and making a few tremendous saves towards the end of the game to help preserve the victory. His confidence seemed to improve as the game went on, which has been an issue for him over the past year. The physical talent is there, it’s likely a mental thing that held Crawford back from shaking out of his sophomore slump.
It’s still a little premature to say that Crawford is “back” to that form that he showcased against Vancouver, as much as we’d all like to think that. But there’s no doubt that he’s playing extremely well and his confidence is going up. That could be terrific news for the Blackhawks, and bad news for the rest of the NHL.