Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford continues to elevate his status amongst the rankings of the NHL’s elite goaltenders, but his situation is far different than many of the established netminder’s in the league in that until last year Crawford wasn’t even truly secure in his job.
That being said, even after the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Crawford’s production this year was put in doubt by many critics, including myself. Simply put, Corey Crawford exemplified the style of goaltending the NHL was looking to eliminate by allowing more play behind the net and shortened the length of a goaltenders pads (Crawford’s leg pads last year were hilariously proportioned).
However, Crawford has continued to do exactly what got him through the playoffs and all of last season with Ray Emery performing excellently. In Crawford’s wins, he has a .918 save percentage, while in losses it only goes down to .900. This goes well with Crawford’s situational goaltending, meaning that while he is lucky to have the Blackhawks’ puck possession in front of him, when tough games such as Saturday night’s against the Buffalo Sabres occur, Crawford is continually ready.
Even against the Sabres, Crawford had periods in which he was not needed, as the Blackhawks peppered Ryan Miller with shots. Meanwhile, Nikolai Khabibulin was on the bench, where he should remain for as many games as possible. Simply put, Corey Crawford is going to see a lot of games like he did Saturday night, so the best way to keep him fresh is to start him as much as possible.
As the Blackhawks play more and more road games and continue onward on their current stretch, Crawford should play as much as possible and embrace almost a workhorse role. Khabibulin is certainly not the goaltender he once was, as proved by his lone start this year, and goaltender Antti Rannta is at least one year away from being NHL ready. For these reasons and more, life is good for Stanley Cup Champion and Locker Room Championship Belt Owner Corey Crawford.
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