Corey Crawford was named the NHL's Third Star of the Week on Monday, an honor that is well deserved. It doesn't matter how many big games Crow wins, it seems that I have to defend him against the meatballs, both here in Chicago and in the national media that he is a damn good goalie. Every time a questionable goal goes in Twitter and Facebook blows up with the stupidity. "Trade Crawford!" "Put in Raanta!" Enough already, Corey Crawford is a true #1 goaltender and he is not going anywhere.
The first complaint people will make over the next six years will be Crow's $6 million a year salary. Folks, that is market value for an above average starting goaltender in the NHL these days. With the salary cap on the rise, the price of poker will be going up as well. Much like the market dictated that Bryan Bickell get paid $4 million it dictated Crow's contract as well. Considering Steve Mason just got a three year/$12 million deal I think the Crawford contract is pretty good. Everyone wants to complain about the money in the here and now but they don't see the value in it down the road. Over the next two summers goalies like Miller, Halak, Niemi, Schneider, Hiller, Fleury and Bishop will all become UFA's. I am sure the contracts these guys will get will make Crawford's look better than it does today.
I get the infatuation with Antti Raanta. The kid has been great since his call up from Rockford. He is an asset because just like pitching in baseball, you can never have too much goaltending. Raanta is a good back up who can be trusted to fill in for longer periods of times if need be, but he is not going to be the # 1 goaltender in Chicago this season.
Crawford's 19 wins has him tied for ninth in the NHL. There are only two goalies in the league with more than 30 starts that have fewer than Crow's seven regulation losses; Ben Bishop (6) and Jonas Hiller (5). Crawford has a .926 save% at even strength which is seventh among goalies with at least 30 starts. His overall save % suffers due to his .804 save % while shorthanded, which is not good at all. The Blackhawks' penalty kill has been a disaster all season long. The team has not played well in front of Crawford while on the kill and he has not done much to bail out his defenders either.
Speaking of the play in front of the goaltenders, over the last two seasons it has appeared that the Hawks do play better in front of either Ray Emery or Raanta than they do for Crawford. The numbers don't lie. Crawford has faced an average of 26.3 shots in his 34 games while Raanta has seen an average of 24.4 in his 17 games. Two more shots a game will make a big difference in a goalie's stats over the course of a full season. Before Crawford's injury, he was enjoying 3.31 goals of support per game. He has received only 2.15 goals of support in his seven games since returning from injury in which he has posted a .922 save percentage. Antti Raanta has been getting 3.8 goals per game of support in his 15 starts this season.
I don't know what else Crawford could do to gain the full respect that he deserves. Antti Niemi is revered in this town, and rightfully so, for his 2010 Stanley Cup win. Crawford posted a .932 save % and a 1.84 GAA in his Cup run, much better than Niemi's .910 save % and 2.63 GAA in 2010,but most Blackhawks fans would tell you they'd rather still have Nemo. Crow's career playoff GAA is 2.04, which is the third best for active goalies only behind Martin Brodeur and Jonathan Quick. His career postseason save % is .924, which is fifth best among active goalies; better than Brodeur, Niemi, Howard, Luongo, Price, Fleury, Lundqvist and Rinne.
I really hope this is the last time I have to rant about the lack of respect for Corey Crawford but I know it won't be.