There is no longer much of a question as to who is the NHL‘s best playoff goaltender. After another fantastic performance to close out the Minnesota Wild in Game 6, Corey Crawford‘s name is at the forefront of the Conn Smythe discussion for the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Wild vastly outplayed the Blackhawks in Game 6 and would have extended to series to seven if not for Crawford. He stopped 34 of 35 Minnesota shots thrown his way, with a large chunk of them being extremely high-quality chances.
It wasn’t just Game 6, of course. Crawford was incredible all series long, building off of strong first round where he played considerably better than the St. Louis Blues‘ Ryan Miller at the other end. Ilya Bryzgalov was surprisingly effective for the Wild filling in for the sidelined Darcy Kuemper and Josh Harding, but Crawford was better.
Such has been the case for each of the last six playoff series Crawford has taken part in. During that period, he has outplayed some of the league’s bigger names like Miller, Jimmy Howard, Jonathan Quick and Tuukka Rask. There hasn’t been a goaltender better than Crawford over the last two postseasons combined.
This is hardly a case of a player being propped up by the team in front of him, either; the Blackhawks played fairly mediocre hockey in front of Crawford against the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins last year, as well as the Blues and Wild this year. As long as Crawford’s minding the net, Chicago will remain as tough an out as ever in the playoffs.