If I had sat you down last season and told you that Corey Crawford would be having the best start of his young career this year, you would’ve laughed in my face. In his first year as starting goalie for the Chicago Blackhawks, he ended the season with 30 wins, a 2.72 goals-against average and a .903 save percentage. But below those numbers was the real story, consisting of short bursts of wins followed by gut-wrenching losses and stretches where he was benched.
More often than not, he seemed unsure of himself and low on self-confidence, even when he held opponents at bay. The howls for his trade were deafening.
This season, things are different. There’s a new Corey Crawford in net, one that fights for every save and swats the puck away like it’s an annoying fly. He’s only allowed nine goals in five games, making 134 saves along the way, with a 1.78 goals-against average and .933 save percentage. For his league-best wins record and helping the Blackhawks to their best start in franchise history, he’s been named the NHL’s Second Star of the Week for that.
What’s changed about Crawford? It could be the general attitude of the Blackhawks to turn themselves around from last season’s subpar performance. It’s definitely his personal desire to prove himself worthy of the starting position. And maybe it’s the fact that he’s decided to shun the warm-up two-touch game with his teammates in favor of quiet meditation in a corner. If he’s not already the stereotypical goalie with bizarre habits, he’s taken the first, seemingly harmless step. Hey, it’s working.
You would’ve laughed in my face last season and started looking at players the Blackhawks could trade for Crawford, but now you’d be proud of him. He’s a changed young man, and the Blackhawks would be lost without that change.