The 2013 Stanley Cup Finals are a little more than 48 hours away, but the excitement has been buzzing for the matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins since it was determined that this would be the matchup back on Saturday night.
On paper, these two teams are pretty evenly matched. Each club boasts a core group of forwards as good as any in the league, great depth up front, and a strong blue line as well. With the two sides so evenly matched, it’s possible that we could see the series come down to what happens between the pipes.
There are a handful of reasons that you could point to as an explanation as to how each of these teams won their respective conferences. But if you’re going to focus on one area, it’s hard to overlook the goaltending, where each club was better than any of the other 14 teams in this year’s postseason.
On the side of the Hawks, you have Corey Crawford. Crawford has taken a beating from fans, both nationally and locally, as many have wondered if he’s actually capable of being a no. 1 goaltender. After an inconsistent 2011-12, including a coupe of soft overtime goals in the playoffs, Crawford made sure those questions became answers this season.
Crawford teamed up with backup Ray Emery to win the Jennings Trophy this year, allowing the least amount of goals of any goaltending duo in the league. Crawford himself has been outstanding, both in the regular season and in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. His 1.74 GAA is tops in the playoffs, while his .934 save percentage is just a notch behind Tuukka Rask. Of course, questions still surround Crawford, especially as he prepares to go head to head with Rask.
One could easily make the argument that Crawford hasn’t been tested as much as the Bruins netminder. Rask has faced 53 more shots in these playoffs, and posted a save percentage that is .001 percent better than Crawford. He allowed just two goals in four games against the offensively loaded Pittsburgh Penguins, including a 53-save performance in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Even so, there’s no reason to think that Corey Crawford can’t match the level of Tuukka Rask. He’s been proving his doubters wrong all postseason long. He helped the Hawks climb out of a 3-1 series deficit in the Western Conference Semifinals and is a large reason that the Hawks boast the best penalty kill of any team in these playoffs. He’s a championship caliber goaltender, and should continue to prove just that as we roll into these Stanley Cup Finals.