The situation is a set one. For almost a minute, the game stops. Unlike a fight, in which the crowd erupts with every blow struck, the crowd stands quietly, ready to erupt at a sirens notice. The NHL shootout is not without controversy, but unlike in other sports, the pressure of a NHL shootout lies on the netminder.
It should be no surprise then that the best situational goalies make for the best shootout goaltenders. That’s where Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks is outstanding, and proves that he is indeed in the discussion as one of the league’s elite goaltenders.
Not overly large at 6-foot-2 and 208 pounds, Crawford has made a career out of not being statistically brilliant, but coming through when needed the most. Last night against the Dallas Stars was a perfect encapsulation of just that.
Flash back to the first period, when Crawford made a poor decision behind his own net. With everyone out of position and the net open, the Blackhawks were quickly down 1-0 on the road. That gaffe immediately behind him, Crawford hunkered down and went on to deny an Alex Chaisson penalty shot that went off the post.
Crawford for his career is now 10-for-10 against penalty shots, having denied some of the league’s best hands. Of the 10 shots, seven have been on the road, making that feat even more impressive.
In the shootout (albeit some numbers are inflated thanks a 12-round duel with Kari Lehtonen last night) Crawford has a top 10 save percentage of .833, while having faced the third most shots in the league. Thanks to last night’s performance, his road save percentage of .938 is best amongst goalies that have faced ten or more shots. All of that together certainly paints a vibrant picture of why Corey Crawford is one of the elite goalies in the NHL.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486.