Remember last summer? That mass hysteria over whether or not Corey Crawford was a franchise goaltender and that the Chicago Blackhawks were absolutely doomed if they kept him around. That was fun. Not "Hawks Have Asked About Roberto Luongo" fun, but it was intriguing to watch Hawks fans tear each other apart like they love to do.
While I was all in on the bring-Luongo-to-Chicago bandwagon (for no reason other than the chaos that would have ensued), I was also quick to come to the defense of Crawford. You could say I'm a Crawford hipster of sorts, which is a pretty elite group since there aren't many of us. He's making those that supported him look like geniuses now, though.
In fact, both netminders for the Hawks are each demonstrating their own brilliance this season. Which is pretty easy to point out when the team is absolutely cruising, with a record of 16-0-3.
It's pretty clear that whatever issues that plagued Crawford last season are now gone. His confidence is sky high and he's had an eagle eye on the puck this season, after vision was a major issue for him last year. Right now, he's definitely worthy of some love as a Vezina Trophy candidate.
Crawford is 8-0-3 on the season, with a terrific 1.50 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage. Not to mention finally posting not one, but two shutouts over the past couple of weeks. His numbers are among the best in the league. He's been something to watch this year.
After a rough outing against the Phoenix Coyotes in his first start, Ray Emery has also been fantastic in his own right. He's 8-0-0 on the year, with a surprisingly good .927 save percentage and 2.08 GAA. Since his first start, he's surrendered more than two goals only one time. He's a step quicker this season (but only one) and his positioning has been splendid.
One thing we hear about with the Hawks, or heard about last season, was the lack of "goalie wins". Neither of the men between the pipes really stole any games for them last year in the way that goalies for other contenders did. That's not the case this year. Each has at least one to his credit, including Crawford's performance on Sunday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Of course, credit is due to the team in front of them. The blue line is playing some damn fine hockey and the penalty kill isn't letting opposing teams get anywhere near the net on the man advantage. They're not immune to breakdowns, but they're making life at least a little bit easier for each of their goaltenders this season.
Credit both of these goaltenders for their play this year. After laboring through the season in 2011-2012, they've got it together and have already stolen a couple of games for the Blackhawks. Here's hoping they steal a couple more come playoff time.
Jennings Trophy anyone?