Things change daily as the rigors of the NHL season continue to affect teams. Injuries and performance swings are a part of life, with even the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks currently dealing with the rigors of line-shuffling thanks to injuries.
However, despite the changing personnel in front of him, Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford was once again excellent when the team needed him to be. Crawford still has critics, as expected of a netminder with a lone title to his name and a massive new contract.
Yet, the beauty with Crawford throughout his career as a starter has been his ability to play to the situation. Yes, he will have games where he allows five goals and looks awful. Everyone remembers though that the Blackhawks’ stout offense can also bail him out. In the same way, Crawford can hunker down and stonewall offenses when the team needs him to.
On Saturday night against the Vancouver Canucks, in the midst of a backup controversy with his workload being questioned, Crawford was once again brilliant and gave the Blackhawks an important win with a large portion of the road trip still to go. He had an even-strength shutout, making 36 saves on 37 shots, with his only goal allowed coming on a Canucks power play.
Going into Saturday’s game, the Crawford’s workload had been questioned, but let’s recall that it is not an error in coaching, but rather the ineptitude of Nikolai Khabibulin that caused Crawford to play in his 14th straight contest.
But where Khabibulin’s name brought a sense of pessimism, current backup Antti Raanta brings optimism and excitement to the last spot on the bench. The Blackhawks’ schedule is perfectly fine right now to start Crawford once again in the next two games. Crawford, for his part, has brushed off all questions that suggest he’s being overworked. On Saturday, he practiced what he’s been preaching with an outstanding performance, one he will be looking to repeat going forward.
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