When team’s around the NHL build a foundation for playoff success, the previous notion was that physicality and defensive aggressiveness meant summer success. However, as of late, the Chicago Blackhawks have found victory with offensive minded defenseman and a puck possession offense that relies of pushing the tempo of the game.
Yet this season, the Blackhawks are not the perennial favorite they were last year and will have to rely on goaltender Corey Crawford to continue playing up to the moment, like he did last postseason. There, Crawford earned his new, $6 million per year long-term contract, allowing 1.84 goals per game with a .932 save percentage during the course of the 23 game playoffs.
This year, marred by injury, Crawford has regressed towards the median, allowing 2.48 goals per game on a .911 save percentage in 32 contests thus far. While not awful numbers, the Blackhawks’ offense has been efficient overall this season, especially with regards to puck possession.
Defensively, the Blackhawks retained all seven defenseman from last season and added Mike Kostka into the fold. Chicago ranks third in goals for/against ratio, and fourth in shots allowed per game, yet ranks mid-pack in goals allowed per game.
With a stretch of quality opponents such as the Anaheim Ducks Friday night occurring before the Olympic break, a confidence boosting stonewall performance would bolster Crawford, the team, and Blackhawks fans alike.
Crawford has played up to situations his entire career, and now would be a better time than ever for him to do it yet again. With slight dysfunction in front of him, Crawford could sway momentum for the Blackhawks and gain the team valuable mid-season points in the tight Western Conference standings.
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