It was only a matter of time before someone asked this question, given his start: Is Corey Crawford a Vezina Trophy candidate?
This isn’t a matter of everyone getting ahead of themselves and Crawford being the beneficiary of the hot start for the Chicago Blackhawks. This is no fluke. He has bounced back from a rough first full season as the starter and has been a large reason for their early success this year.
In fact, his numbers are right along with some of the best netminders in the league. Is this any sort of surprise to us? Perhaps it shouldn’t be. We all knew that Crawford was physically capable of being a franchise goaltender. From what we saw last year, it was more of a question of whether or not he had the right mentality.
You’d be right in questioning whether or not he had the mental makeup to rebound this year after allowing a pair of extremely soft overtime goals in the playoffs last year. Of course, the softies weren’t limited to the postseason. Crawford had a tough time piecing together any sort of consistency last year. The team in front of him didn’t help so much either. The blue line was as inconsistent as the man between the pipes, which is a recipe for disaster.
The entire team in front of Crawford is much better this year, he is much improved as well and it shows on the ice. If the season ended tomorrow, his numbers would put him right in there as a Vezina candidate. His goals-against average (1.65) and save percentage (.935) are both in the top three in the entire league. He’s also tied for the league lead in wins with seven and finally managed to notch a shutout, so he has one of those to his credit as well.
Even better, the Hawks have a couple of “goalie wins” this year, which they lacked last year. No one has come up with the exact definition of one of those yet, but it has something to do with Crawford stealing a game. He’s done it on more than one occasion this year, even if it was just a matter of keeping the Hawks afloat for stretches in which they struggled during the game.
At this point in the season, it’s impossible to count him out as a Vezina candidate. He has been nothing short of elite and it’s been a joy to watch. Whether or not he can maintain it remains to be seen. But with the team in front of him playing the way they are, and his confidence having returned, we should be looking at the real Crawford.