This isn’t an uncommon occurrence. Crawford may very well be the most overanalyzed player on Chicago’s roster; it is perhaps understandable due to the position he plays, but the close scrutiny of his game by Blackhawks fans and the media has reached absurd levels in the past and present alike.
Being an important player for a big-market team like Chicago by itself necessitates some degree of mental strength, but this is taken to an extreme degree for Crawford. In spite of the intense added pressure, he has come out on top far more often than not.
Returning to Haula’s goal, it would have been easy for Crawford to hang his head and let all the negative noise affect his play afterward. Instead, he never let another Wild shot go by him — including, of course, the eventual game-deciding shootout in which he stopped all three Minnesota shots he faced.
Crawford’s ability to deal with often ridiculous expectations and criticism was most noticeably on display in the 2013 postseason, where he put up Conn-Smythe worthy numbers (Patrick Kane stated that Crawford “got robbed” of the award) and was excellent from start to finish. Despite it all, Crawford was constantly showered with doubt by the hockey world, particularly during the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins. An average glove hand was completely blown out of proportion, and a goaltender who had saved 93 percent of the shots thrown at him in the playoffs was suddenly and inexplicably labeled Chicago’s greatest weakness.
Senseless, isn’t it? Such is an accurate characterization of nearly all the criticism Crawford has taken since entering the NHL full-time in 2010-11. It seems as if these unfair expectations are something he will have to deal with for his entire career.
Fortunately for the Blackhawks, Crawford has proven time and time again that he is more than capable of doing precisely that.