We've dissected Corey Crawford's style and imperfections to death. As always, it's best to look back to look forward. There's a goalie we didn't hesitate to compare Crawford to last year, and it might even be a more apt one now. That would be Jimmy Howard. Yes, everything is measured against Scum, but that tends to happen when you're trying to become the standard bearer that they were. Anyway, Crawford and Howard both burst on the scene in similar fashion, having served the full term in the AHL without early exits for good behavior. They then took over for a disappointing veteran, or in the case of Chris Osgood a veteran who was never that good in the first place but got press coverage like he was. Here are their rookie numbers:
Crawford: 33-18-6, .917 SV%, 2.30 GAA
Howard: 37-15-10 .924 SV%, 2.26 GAA
Not all that different, and Howard had a slightly better defense in front of him in 09-10 than Crawford did last year. In year two, Howard himself had a pretty nasty blip, and that came behind a shambolic defense at the time with a fading Lidstrom and a completely finished Rafalski. Between Dec 1st. and Feb 1st last season, Howard had a SV% of .882 and a goals-against of 2.84. Pretty awful, huh? There were some of the same problems, as the league attacked Howard's aggressiveness (thanks Ameridindian at WIIT), and he had to adjust. Howard rebounded the rest of the year to have a not-awful .908 season save percentage but a still unsightly 2.78. However, he was very good in the playoffs before the defense in front of him succumbed to the Sharks.
That doesn't mean Crow is automatic to recover the way Howard did, and his full recovery didn't come until this season. I would argue that the defense in front of Crawford this year is probably better than the one in front of Howard last year, which makes Crow's numbers even more alarming.
But there is precedent to patience. Howard got the Wings to a Game 7 in round 2 with an aging roster and injuries pretty much everywhere. I would suggest that if Crow can rebound to even the level that Howard was at last season, the Hawks could go much farther, (especially if the roster is augmented in a way or two).
It's just a question of if we all, and Stan Bowman, can ride out this rough patch long enough to see the clouds part on the other side. If they indeed will.