In a team sport, it is difficult to point the finger at any one individual for shortcomings. Quality goaltending in the NHL playoffs is always at a premium, and most people know a veteran or hot netminder can carry a squad. Transversely, poor or inconsistent play from the position can leave a team hitting the links earlier than anticipated.
Corey Crawford is a talented goaltender, but the 2014 NHL playoffs were not a fine showing by him. Last year’s Stanley Cup champion struggled in their 4-2 series win over the Minnesota Wild. His overall save percentage in the series was .919. However, his save percentage was a dismal .848 in their two road losses, where his Chicago Blackhawks were only outshot 49-39 in that two-game stretch. Defense and keeping pucks away from Crawford was not the real issue.
Over four wins in that series, Crawford posted a .955 save percentage. He appeared shaky as a visitor to the Wild arena in general, and that trend would continue in their semifinal matchup against the Los Angeles Kings with an .857 save percentage in three road starts.
It was a high-scoring series against the Kings, in which neither teams’ goalies really took command of a game. But Crawford was not sharp when it counted most in Game 7. He allowed two goals in the first period within a one-minute span, and five total in the game. The Blackhawks also outshot the Kings 41-32 in Game 7 to further devalue Crawford’s performance.
In total over the 2014 Western Conference Finals, Crawford had a save percentage of .838 against 116 shots in the Blackhawks’ four losses. Meanwhile, in the Kings’ four wins, Jonathan Quick faced only 117 shots, so there was not much disparity. Quick’s save percentage in wins was .907, and .860 in losses.
Crawford was especially ugly in Game 2 at home, where he allowed six consecutive scores by the Kings. The Blackhawks were only outshout by six in that game, so it’s clear Crawford was not matching Quick’s overall efforts in the series. That cannot be indicative of a goalie of his team’s success over the course of a grueling, multi-week Stanley Cup playoff run.