Believe it or not, the time has not yet come for Stanley Cup winning goaltender Corey Crawford.
Despite being a championship goaltender in the hardest postseason in sports, the NHL does not give Corey Crawford the admiration or respect he deserves. However, as the Chicago Blackhawks go forward with a strong nucleus of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, Corey Crawford may be the anchor that proves to leads to more Stanley Cup victories going forward.
This postseason was full of doubt for Crawford. He was certainly not the fastest, biggest, or most pedigreed goaltender at any point. And with a spectacular regular season turned in by both Crawford and backup Ray Emery, speculation would swirl at any turn. When Niklas Backstrom went down for the Minnesota Wild, Crawford only had to outmatch backup Josh Harding.
Crawford wasn’t necessarily stunning against either Jimmy Howard, but was an absolute brick wall when the team needed him most, down 3-1. Against the Los Angeles Kings and Jonathan Quick. NBC’s broadcast team, especially Darren Pang, was salivating over Quick and his flashy, aggressive goaltending, while Crawford silently did what he needed to do.
But against Tuukka Rask and the Boston Bruins, things are different for an opposing goaltender. Boston is one of the best fore checking, shot blocking, and overall defensive teams in the league. Yet, Crawford stood tough and delivered when his team needed him most.
Corey Crawford was consistent when needed most, and as good as the situation. In the end, during the frenetic pace of playoff hockey and with an aggressive set of defenseman in front of him, Crawford was robbed of a Conn Smythe trophy.
I was critical of Corey Crawford. who never impressed me when he was muddling with the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League waiting for his chance. As moot and obvious of a statement as it is, a team is only as good as its goalie.
For some, that means relying on winning games through defense and goaltending. For a long time, 2-1 physical showdown games were the nature of the beast with regards to playoff hockey. But the tempo of the league is changing, with finesse becoming more and more important.
With that in mind, the role of goaltender should change as well. Corey Crawford’s brilliance is in that he is as good as he needs to be. Whether that means allowing his prolific offense to capture a decisive 6-5 victory, or whether that means withholding a frenzied first period during game six.
All in all, Crawford’s game is evolving. His glove hand is still improving, and his ability to handle the puck was demonstrated throughout the playoffs. Yet, he gets no respect, and he will continue to do so. His lack of flash and concise personality will keep it that way.
But one way or another, Crawford’s ability to win regardless of situation has cemented himself as a franchise goalie, and someone who will be winning for a long time going forward.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486